Thursday, January 29, 2015
We recently had the privilege to speak at the Hong Kong Printers’ Federation Summit on the benefits of standards. One of the discussion points was the need for more environmental innovation within printing companies. A member of the audience gave us a great example of just the sorts of things that printers can do to improve print media’s environmental impact.
Alex Yan of the Wing King Tong Printing Group one of Hong Kong’s best known and well establishing printers, has developed the AiryPack, a new form of environmentally friendly packaging. It is environmentally sustainable, cost effective and based on recycled packaging materials. Cardboard boxes generally comprise dense board overlaid with some sort of protective layer, usually glued on. AiryPack, for which Alex has a patent pending, has a stiff outer layer that uses clever folding and a minimal amount of glue to stick it to a special hollow material that is the body of the box. Because it uses less material a box’s weight using AiryPack, compared to conventional packaging, can be reduced by over 50%. This is a substantial reduction in resource requirement and the package can be recycled rather than being sent to landfill.
This new lightweight material is apparently extremely simple to produce and manipulate, and to return to the recycling stream. Using less glue and board has obvious environmental benefits, but AiryPack is also very lightweight so its less costly for air transportation.
Alex Yan claims that AiryPack is a cradle-to-cradle system in that it produces zero waste, zero emissions and zero ecological footprint. The technology has been awarded the Hong Kong Green Label Scheme certificate. Wing King Tong is working on certifications from other ecolabelling schemes and with other organisations in order to gain a higher profile for its technology. There are many ecolabelling schemes around the world, some more robust than others, however AiryPack meets the demands of the more rigorous ones. This includes being recyclable once the package reaches end of life, the use of recycled raw materials, water soluble glue, an accountable carbon footprint (for instance using ISO 16759), and conformance with local environmental regulations.
Wing King Tong has set up a special division to develop and promote AiryPack, which can be used to produce more than just packaging. Team AiryPack is working on concept products such as calendars based on AiryPack materials that can be sold direct to consumers. Alex Yan is looking for partners to cobrand his invention or to promote it, so if this is of interest do contact him via: www.airypack.com
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Eleven is such a wonderful number. Think Spinal Tap and the BBC iPlayer’s volume control, or ISO TC130’s Working Group 11. When something goes up to eleven, you get just that little bit more, and it’s that little bit that can make a massive difference. So it is with Fespa’s newly relaunched Planet Friendly Guide, which has been split into eleven easily consumed parts.
Fespa pitches the Planet Friendly Guide for digital and screen printers, but the content is valuable for any type of printing company and their customers. This previously ginormous tome is the definitive sustainability reference for the graphic arts, and now in a series of digestible pieces it’s going to be even more useful.
Instead of being a single volume, the Planet Friendly Guide is reorganised into a series of smaller parts. A helpful introduction explains how printers should prepare themselves to manage their environmental impact and improve their sustainability, and there are ten additional guidance documents. These ten provide everything you need to know about a range of topics, such as pollution or emissions to water or handling waste and environmental impact. The idea is to make it easier for readers to get to the information they want without having to waste precious time ploughing through acres of words to find what’s relevant for them. As Sean Holt, general secretary for Fespa says “Keeping up to date with legislation can be prohibitively time-consuming, particularly for SMEs.”
Organising the Planet Friendly Guide in this way makes for a much more accessible and engaging series. It turns the Planet Friendly Guide from a single volume into a part-work publication that can be extended as often as required. Fespa can use this model to deliver bespoke environmental content that meets local needs based on member feedback, rather than sticking exclusively to material with global relevance. There is also a better chance that the content will be read and implemented to improve production and business processes. Hopefully this will mean more printing companies taking an active role in environmental impact reduction.
The new format gives Fespa scope to add topics without having to edit and revise the entire publication and with this revamped format Fespa has a mechanism for delivering a greater range of environmental content to members. For instance environmental benchmarking and market updates can be added, along with taylored explanations of environmental legislation for different parts of the world and what rules mean for print buyers. Fespa could also develop a global directory of printers certified for compliance to ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems).
In its new flexible format, the Planet Friendly Guide will be altogether more useful to the 37 national member associations that are Fespa. The Planet Friendly Guide is free to association members as part of their membership and is funded by Fespa’s Profit for Purpose programme. This programme was set up to reinvest profits from Fespa exhibitions back into the global printing industry. Fespa is also an associate member of the Verdigris project which funds development of ISO standards related to the environmental impact of print. Hopefully Fespa might consider adding a new part to the Planet Friendly Guide that explains which ISO environmental standards printers should consider using, such as ISO 16759 for calculating the carbon footprint of print media, and how to implement them.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Happy New Year and Hooray because the Danish politicians who want to tax printed advertising are rethinking their position! In late December the Danish government’s press office notified us that the intended tax on printed ads is being reconsidered.
The Danish parliament was due to vote this month on legislation that would impose a tax on printed advertising, increasing its cost by up to 50%. The Danish Printers’ Association has worked extremely hard over many months to encourage Danish lawmakers to look more carefully at print’s sustainability and at the knock-on effects of a such a punitive tax. They have explained that print is not damaging to the environment and that the proposed legislation is based on poor environmental science. Consequently Benny Engelbracht, the Danish Minister for Taxation, has invited members of Denmark’s two leading political parties to a renewed discussion. Mr Engelbracht said that “When I hear signals of reservations from the other parties, I of course take this seriously. So I think it’s only natural to invite [them] to new talks. But I have to stress that if this tax is to be abandoned we need to find other ways to finance this.” He is referring to the fact that the tax was intended to pay for the Danish “green check” tax refund. This is: “a deduction of your tax payment … as a compensation for new “green” taxes. In 2015 it is 955 DKK a year per person [over 18]”, according to the Danish government press office.
The government’s stated goal was to tax print on the basis that it is bad for the environment. The vote has been delayed until March to give the politicians more time to understand the economic and social implications of the proposed tax and to think of how to replace it. Extending the window for debate is an opportunity for a more nuanced consideration. It is a basis for closer dialogue between the Danish government and the Danish Printers’ Association and other interested parties. The extension gives politicians the chance to understand print’s sustainability, associated environmental impact data and the importance of waste and resource management at local level. Taxing print also fails to consider the opportunity cost of restricted media options to businesses and wider society.
This whole business has been about money, but that might also be why the tax is being reconsidered. When the proposal was initiated in 2012, anticipated revenues were DKK340 million per year, roughly $57 million. But according to the Danish government press office “The tax minister's calculations show that the expected revenue will be a third less than expected in 2012.”. The Danish printers’ association estimates that the tax would result in the loss of 600 print and supply chain jobs. The cost in unemployment benefits, which in Denmark are generous and so expensive for taxpayers, would be high. Maybe Mr Engelbracht reckons there are other less costly and less damaging ways of finding $57 million? Let’s hope so.