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15 Jan 2020

Black, white and green

We’ve previously looked at some of the benefits of digital printing (including flexibility, shorter lead times and the opportunities for variable data printing, among others). However, with digital printing becoming more established, it’s becoming clearer that there are significant advantages for the environment as well as for customers.

Of course, all forms of printing use some form of substrate. The difference with digital printing is that no setup is required, and the press does not need to run constantly. With flexographic printing, an average of 15% of the chosen substrate is wasted for these reasons. While this can often be recycled, it makes much more sense (financially and environmentally) not to use it needlessly in the first place. If you’ve ever watched paper spool off a flexo press, then you know exactly what we mean.

Digital printing is ideal for short runs, which is where the waste-saving becomes even more important as with conventional printing methods, substrate waste can be disproportionately high on smaller jobs.

Less on your plate

Perhaps the greenest aspect of digital printing is the fact that this technology does away with the need for plates completely. Proofs can be sent digitally, as opposed to all the materials set up to create physical proofs on a flexo press. These same digital proofs can be instantly (and if necessary, repeatedly) adjusted – again without any plates being created.

With conventional printing, each new proof would require plates to be made, with the attendant use of chemicals and plate materials such as polyester and rubber. Plate processing and washing uses large volumes of chemicals, not all of which are harmless if they enter the environment as part of your wastewater discharge.

Digital proofing saves time and money as well as reducing the environmental footprint of a job. This not only enhances your eco-credentials as a PSP, but also allows your customers to talk to the efforts they are making to be more sustainable. This is becoming increasingly important as eco-savvy consumers are demanding that brands demonstrate sincerity that goes beyond mere greenwashing.

The end of the chemical romance

Digital printing is not a chemical-free process: ink (which is oil-based) is still required and its removal uses solvents. However, the volume of chemicals involved is significantly reduced, and this can only be a good thing.

There are further benefits to digital printing which, while they may be less important, do still contribute to its “greener” reputation. Digital proofing means that the press itself is only used for printing the final job, which saves on electricity.

Being able to email digital proofs to clients means fewer delivery vehicles on the roads, and less fuel used. It could also allow some of your employees to work remotely, again reducing the number of miles involved in each print job.

Less time spent on each job could mean fewer late nights for your printers – again, using less light, heating and water at your printshop.

The cost-savings accrued by digital printing can be ploughed back into your business, potentially funding further acquisitions of digital printing technology and initiating a virtuous circle of economic and environmental benefits.

Case closed

The business case for digital printing is clear-cut and factoring in the environmental benefits only makes these arguments more compelling. Reduced waste not only means reduced costs, but it is also a fact that can be included in marketing material to give your PSP a competitive edge.

By switching to digital printing, you’ll generate less wastepaper (and other substrates) and have lower volumes of chemicals and solvents to safely dispose of. Whatever colour ink you’re using, with a digital printing press each job you complete will be greener.