Environmental Product Declarations

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

In the graphics industry, the idea of making Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) is basically an alien concept. But, from printed matter through to the machinery and systems used to produce print media, EPDs are becoming increasingly important to procurement.

An EPD is a standardised way of quantifying the environmental impact of a product, say a printed book, or a system such as a platesetter or digital press. Today no printer, publisher or equipment manufacturer of graphics technologies provides comprehensive EPDs with their products. However the idea might be worth considering, especially for manufacturers of digital printing systems.

At an event taking place this week in Milan, a number of companies explained their positions on EPD. From what they say, it’s clear that a robust EPD demonstrates compliance with regulations and provides business benefits. In graphics for example, EPDs for inks and consumables confirm that products comply with rules such as the the European REACH restrictions. Similarly paper EPDs confirm compliance with the USA’s Lacey Act.

But the benefit of an EPD goes beyond sticking to the rules. It provides accountability and a mechanism for managing environmental footprint. If you have to quantify environmental aspects and impacts to develop an EPD, you have a means to measure and control them. This makes for more efficient production, with less scope for manufacturing errors. 

Producing an EPD is not exactly quick and easy, taking time, investment and expertise. There are several parts to the process, which should comply with ISO 14044 (for Life Cycle Analysis) and ISO 14025 (for environmental labels and declarations). The first step is to define the scope of the project. You then need to do a Life Cycle Analysis on your product. Obviously this will range in complexity from the very simple book say using ISO 16759 for calculating the carbon footprint of print media products, through to very complicated as would be the case for a printing system. 

Obtaining an EPD is rarely simple or cheap. However the process is not money down the drain for a useless piece of paper, because it provides the basis for process control. For companies who design for the environment, an EPD is an environmental impact baseline against which new designs can be considered. Perhaps the biggest benefit of an EPD is that having one fast tracks customer investment decisions. And it can advance a given product or system up the candidate list for public and private procurement. 

As more companies take more seriously their environmental responsibilities, we’d like to think it won’t for long be rare to find EPDs in the graphics industry.

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIEpson, FespaHPKodakKornit, RicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.

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