Sustainability at drupa

The Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

At drupa next month everyone will be talking about technology, innovations and the latest new products. We might also be talking about what it will take to ensure the graphics industry’s continued sustainability: environmental, societal and economic. The last of these is pertinent for an industry undergoing profound change. Technology, new media habits and market perceptions are powerful influences, all of which are reshaping the business. The drupa organisers have a fabulous opportunity to shape the latter two as well as presenting the first one.

When it comes to sustainability, the printing industry is unfortunately still seen as wasteful and polluting. This is despite ample evidence to the contrary and the steadily reducing carbon footprint of print. Visitors to drupa can expect to see plenty of new ideas for driving productivity, but will be unlikely to learn much about how productivity makes for greater environmental sustainability. It’s disappointing that companies are not talking more about how improved production processes, such as processless printing plates, direct digital output and artificial intelligence (long a staple in prepress) drive efficiencies. Sustainability just isn’t central to conversations with customers or the trade press.

There’s a certain irony to this. In the printing industry’s long march to its present sustainable condition, efficiency and the cutting of production processes and waste have ensured survival. Process improvements in prepress and on press have driven waste volumes down, for instance in proofing cycles and in make-ready on press. Automation and colour management minimise errors; errors waste energy and produce waste and their cost rises as jobs get closer to press. But at drupa very few manufacturers are expected to put the potential sustainability impact of new products into an environmental context, mostly because they do not know how. This is the sad fact of it and also the context thing simply hasn’t occurred to them. Exhibitors probably do care and their marketing teams make sure that the sustainability buttons are tapped if not fully pushed. Drupa will have a Sustainability Touchpoint as a special feature of the show, however thus far there are few details. Thomas Shiemann of the VDMA and organiser of the feature says: “With the Touchpoint Sustainability we are dealing with a very important topic for the entire print and paper industry”. No kidding.

We mentioned in our last blog that Kurz impressed at the pre-drupa media event with its honesty. Kurz makes films and has announced that used carrier material can be returned to its Recosys facility to be converted into rPET for repurposing into new products. The company has spent the last eight years developing its recycling facility at a cost of millions of Euros. The hope is that the 30-40% of waste currently turned into rPET will become 100%. According to a Kurz spokesman the company is “becoming a recycling company in this industry”. Now that’s owning it!

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps 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 Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, RicohSplash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

Please also include the Verdigris logo and a link to this website. If you don’t already have our logos, you can get them by downloading the “Publishers Bundle”. And don’t forget terms of the Creative Commons license at the footer of the site. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment