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There is a cost to be ungreen, it’s measured in the landfill in every city on the planet and sooner or later we are all going to pay the price.
As world governments grapple with environmental concerns, few people can visualise that the tonnes of waste material they discard annually will only degrade long after they themselves have passed from the planet.
As Yoong Lee, Anitech’s national business development manager says “It’s a problem that won’t go away anytime soon and some things are getting worse, not better.”
Yoong is referring to the continuing use of high levels of PVC in the signage industry which has been identified as a major contaminant because of the Phthalates plasticisers used in the manufacturing cycle. The use of this plasticiser is critical to PVC since it makes the product flexible, easy to process, insensitive to cold and resistant to harsh weather. Unfortunately all these good points come at a price.
The European Chemicals Agency ECHA which works with the Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program has identified the Phthalates plasticiser compound as a ‘Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC)’ under REACH as a toxic substance because its effects on humans and the environment are serious and often irreversible.
“It’s when businesses develop the mindset that require them to bring eco-sensitive products into the marketplace that we will see a change.” Yoong comments, noting that while many users have this general philosophy they often address only a single area of concern such as VOC free inks, which is not the complete answer for the print industry - it’s not even a half of the solution.
“We should be demanding the same level of environmental friendliness in substrates as we do with inks.” Says Yoong and makes the point that Anitech are tackling this problem head on with their main Korean media partners for banner and self adhesive vinyl media, Starflex and LG Hausys. “We’re using a dual approach to reducing toxicity, the first and most obvious method is to reduce the physical quantity of plasticisers in the substrate, the second is to remove it altogether.”
The Starflex ‘Discovery’ banner media series - best suited for billboards, banners, building murals and in-store displays, can be printed with eco-solvent, UV and latex inks and is made of 50% recycled PVC banners. This means that Discovery reduces PVC content by having the reverse made entirely from recycled PVC banners creating both a 50% reduction in new PVC usage and a 50% reduction after use in landfill or incineration. The front of the substrate is a heat treated, available in matt or gloss white with excellent printability for small and large format printers and the reverse side is tinted to increase opacity. Discovery is a weather resistant, long shelf life, economical medium available in widths up to 3.2 metres.
A second banner product is Starflex ‘Phthalates Free’, a new line of non-PVC media that contains no plasticisers at all. Phthalates Free’s manufacturing process utilises non-toxic materials that completely replace components like Phthalate plasticisers with 100% natural and environmentally friendly components.
Another environment-friendly media is the LB series from LG Hausys, a fully biodegradable digital material that can be printed with solvent, eco-solvent, bio and water based inks.
LB series products are specifically manufactured from naturally recyclable materials such as corn starch that will degrade without releasing dioxin or other harmful chemicals during the breakdown process. This substrate is compatible with bio, solvent, eco-solvent and water based inks, has excellent printability and opacity, and maintains print consistency on high gloss or matt finish. Since the media is available with a smooth finish it is suitable for indoor and outdoor signage, POP displays, tradeshow and promotional advertising. The LG Hausys LB product range provides an alternative for some of the normal PVC applications - it is available in two widths, 1370 and 1520mm, in 50m rolls and has as shelf life of 12 months.
LB substrates are ideally suited to latex inks so operators can combine the green latex technology with an eco-friendly media to maintain a low impact environmental footprint throughout the production process.
“It’s a win-win-win situation, good for the environment, good for the industry and good for us” concludes Yoong.
Anitech is the exclusive distributor for Australia for Star Flex and LG Hausys and is proud to represent suppliers that demonstrate their green credentials.
Picture caption: Starflex Discovery a 50% recycled PVC media