A new European eco-standard could offer UK printers an opportunity to promote sustainable printed products.
The EU Ecolabel for printed paper products, similar to the Nordic Swan label, was approved last month by the European Commission after eight years of negotiations.
Printers will be able to have individual products assessed against the EU Ecolabel, but it is not a general environmental management standard such as ISO 14001.
To gain approval, products must be printed on paper bearing the EU Ecolabel, as well as meet other criteria relating to the entire product life-cycle, such as the types of consumables used, recyclability, emissions, waste management and energy use. Any parts of the product that are sub-contracted to another supplier must also fulfil the accreditation requirements.
Marcus Timson, co-director of the EcoPrint Europe show, which takes places in Berlin later this month, said that, unlike the paper sector, the print industry lacked a chain of custody standard for its products.
"The consumer doesn’t think of print but of design and substrates," he said. "This might be an opportunity to promote printers’ sustainability – print is very sustainable if done properly."
However, Timson added that there was already confusion in the print industry about environmental accreditation, with more than 30 existing standards and labels, while the fragmented nature of the industry meant the introduction of a new label would not be a straightforward process.
He said it may also be neglected by SMEs due to the costs and time involved in applying for accreditation, and favoured by larger companies which had already focused on environmental management schemes such as EMAS.
The printed paper category comprises any printed paper products consisting of at least 90% by weight of paper, paperboard or paper-based substrates, or at least 80% by weight for books, catalogues, pads, booklets or forms.
The label does not apply at this stage to envelopes or printed paper products for packaging and wrapping, but an EU Converted Paper product group has also been established with the aim of all "products of the paper-family" being revised around 2016.
Visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/products-groups-and-criteria.html for more information on the EU Ecolabel criteria.
The topic of environmental labelling will be debated at the EcoPrint Europe show on 26th September, under the title of "Are standards relevant to the print industry – do we need an Ecolabel?"Tweet
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