Although there may be some people who remain unconvinced by environmentalists, canny printers know that 'where there's muck, there's brass' and that rubbish can turn a healthy profit
Today, you’d be hard pushed to find any print business without at least one environmental accreditation to its name, but that does not mean printers are universally happy about it. Some of the original cynicism about the extent to which green policies actually make a difference still exists and the costs associated with going green also come under much fire.
However, this is a short-sighted opinion, according a growing band of eco-evangelist printers, as, far from being money down the drain, going green is not only good for the planet, it can also be a great revenue stream.
One of the first financial benefits is increased business through companies being attracted by the promise of sustainable performance. Tangent, a print and marketing group comprised of a number of firms, including the Ravensworth digital print facility and online operator The Digital Print Partnership, has discovered that holding FSC accreditation is very much a pitch winner.
Tangent group procurement manager Bernard O’Connor explains that new business is one of the major benefits of this recycling effort.
"While our original goal was to reduce the quantity of waste that we were sending to landfill, we have started to promote our recycling initiatives to customers," says O’Connor. "One of our biggest clients gave us even more business after they saw that we were FSC accredited."
Tangent has also recently received a certificate from the World Land Trust showing that the company uses carbon-balanced paper, which has saved 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide since March. O’Connor says this is something that will give the company ammunition when competing for work, as clients can see that the company is going the extra mile – in a world where price is beaten down as far as possible, green credentials such as this can be a real point of difference and a chance for the client to boost its own eco credentials.
To this end, O’Connor explains, it is crucial that printers also ensure their own suppliers are up to scratch environmentally.
"When I appraise potential suppliers, their environmental characteristics are evaluated and form part of the selection process," he adds.
Julian Long, national key account manager at paper manufacturer Arjowiggins Graphic also believes a green approach to business can only become more important in the struggle to secure new business.
"People are really getting back behind environmental issues and I believe that they will be looking for print suppliers who can prove that they are reducing their impact on the environment," he says.
"We’ll see more printers adopt more sustainable technologies, such as using waterless printing or opting for vegetable rather than oil-based inks; measures like these will be part of a bigger package of becoming greener."
Arjowiggins Graphic has set up an environmental calculator to show clients the difference using recycled paper can make in terms of the amount of water, energy and wood used, as well as the amount of CO2 produced.
But going green doesn’t stop with a couple of environmental accreditations and some recycled stock. If you’re really concerned to be seen as a sustainable operator, there are plenty of other things you can do. For example, how about printing on a recycled press?
"Our philosophy is that we cannot continue using up raw materials. That’s why, by 2050, we intend our products to contain much more recycled metal than they currently do," reveals Ricoh UK environmental manager Tim Taylor Ricoh currently ‘remanufactures’ print cartridges and mid-range printing presses that fit the company’s environmental agenda. The presses are stripped down to a carcass before the software is updated and the machines are sent back into the factory to be rebuilt.
"Only the mortality parts are not replaced," adds Taylor, "if the clutch is worn, we regrind it and send it out for a second life."
Like Tangent Group, Taylor believes that Ricoh’s green credentials have helped it win business from other manufacturers.
"We do promote the environmental side of what we do to our customers because they don’t always realise that it is part of our philosophy. It is an important agenda to a lot of people and I believe it has helped us to attract customers, even when we are not necessarily the cheapest supplier."
But the benefits don’t stop at winning new business. Financial returns can also be more immediate thanks to the money you can generate from recycling. In the current economic climate, the financial benefits of recycling should not be overlooked.
The Guardian Print Centre, which prints The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, is making around £2,000 per month profit from recycling its waste, which includes aluminium plates, waste chemicals, batteries, fluorescent tubes and IT waste.
It works with waste management company J&G Environmental, which offsets the cost of taking away chemicals against the value of the aluminium plates and sends the company a cheque every month for the balance.
Engineering manager Danny Couchman explains: "We’ve been working with J&G Environmental since 2005. They take away all of our waste and if there is anything that they don’t deal with they will put us in touch with a company that does handle it."
Arda Metal Packaging, which has three metal and three glass plants in the UK, has also discovered the financial benefit of recycling and has reduced the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 26 tonnes per month, which, as landfill tax is currently set at £56 per tonne, represents a huge saving.
The company, which recycles aluminium, plates, solvents, lacquers, oil drums, ink tins and gearboxes, has also cut its skip hire down from four 40-yard open skips per week to one 35-yard compacted skip per month.
Arda Metal Packaging works manager Steve Niblett, says: "The value of the aluminium plates almost writes off the cost of our waste disposal. We are now recycling or reusing around 85% of our waste – that’s 85% out of landfill."
O’Connor says that the Tangent Group makes a profit of around £1,000 a month from its recycling, which has reached a heady 98% of waste.
"We’ve just renegotiated the rate we receive for our paper waste from £15 to £50 per tonne," he explains. "We make more money out of paper as we don’t generate a huge amount of aluminium waste."
Like Arda Metal Packaging, the Tangent Group has found that cutting down on landfill can also help to cut costs.
"We have significantly reduced the amount we were spending on skips and landfill taxes," O’Connor adds.
So, at a time when many businesses are struggling in a difficult economic climate, how many can afford to throw away what could be valuable waste? With many printers doing their best to cut costs, boost profits and win new business, examining what’s in the skip could be just the ticket.
THE JOURNEY OF RECYCLED PAPER
The paper waste produced at a print site, in the form of overs, trimmings, makereadies and plain sheets, begins its recycling journey when it is collected and taken to a sorting centre. Here the paper is separated into different categories according to type and grade; these categories include office waste, old magazine papers, newsprint, cardboard and corrugated cardboard.
For the manufacture of high-quality paper that is not obviously recycled it is essential to use good-quality sorted office waste that can be used to produce high quality white pulp.
Julian Long, national key account manager for paper manufacturer Arjowiggins Graphics explains: "We are a large consumer of waste for recycling and for top- quality paper that has the same characteristics as virgin fibre, we need good-quality sorted waste. We can’t take newspaper or cardboard. The low-grade waste is used to produce materials where the appearance is not such a critical factor, such as corrugated cardboard and newspaper print."
The sorted waste is then taken to a paper mill, where the paper is pulped and the ink is removed. After the paper has been de-inked, it can be bleached and made into new paper. Some virgin fibres may be added to the pulp for the manufacture of high-quality recycled paper, but low-grade products such as corrugated cardboard and newsprint can be made from 100% recycled fibres.
Wood fibres in paper can typically be recycled five to six times before they become too weak and degraded for further use in papermaking.
Long is keen to dispel the myths that surround paper recycling, which some sceptics claim is more damaging than making paper from virgin pulp.
"Manufacturing recycled paper produces between 20%-45% less CO2 than from virgin fibres," he explains. "It also avoids landfill, which stores up waste for future generations to deal with. The other alternative would be to incinerate waste paper, but this releases CO2 into the air immediately."
MAKING HAZARDOUS WASTE PAY
J&G Environmental specialises in the collection of hazardous waste.
The company’s customer service manager Richard Spreadbury explains: "We collect aluminium plates from our clients, which basically pays for the chemicals that we take away."
The company provides cages to its clients for the storage of used lithographic plates. Its drivers weigh the plates and then calculate any credit that the clients are owed, which is used to offset any chemical charges incurred on the day of collection.
Once transported to the company’s sites the plates are weighed and bundled onto pallets before being melted down and reused as a pure raw material.
Items such as batteries are collected by J&G Environmental before being dispatched to a registered recycling contractor. The batteries are sorted, segregated and stripped down to their components, which include metal, plastic and electrolyte.
Chemicals such as solvents are decanted, treated and stored. Any reclaimed petroleum is then reused as third-grade fuel by a licensed contractor while hazardous components are converted to an inert sludge and non-hazardous liquid.