Embracing Sustainable Practices in Screen Printing
Screen printing has traditionally used hazardous chemicals, but manufacturers now offer eco-friendly alternatives. However, it’s crucial to scrutinize these “green” options and understand their impact on both the environment and the print shops employing them.
According to the PRINTING United Alliance, sustainability should be evaluated in three areas: people, practices, and planning. More than just analyzing harmful substances in a product, it involves a holistic consideration of a process and its effect on its users and the planet.
While both plastisol and water-based inks can be used in a green manner, the disposal process of these inks can vary in environmental impact. Water-based inks, for instance, can harm the environment more if dumped improperly due to the separation of fine pigments in water treatment plants. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the full life-cycle of a product.
Greener methods for managing ink include using water-filtration systems to capture harmful residues. One system funnels the residue to a holding tank for eventual disposal by a hazardous-waste removal company. Similarly, for screen-cleaning chemicals, using natural or bio-products can minimize environmental harm.
Screen printers should also consider how they apply chemicals. Aerosol applications are not environmentally friendly due to dispersal into the air. Liquid alternatives that can be applied from plunger cans or similar containers can provide a safer option. Additionally, closed-loop systems like automatic screen-cleaning machines, which directly accept cleaning chemicals and emit no fumes, contribute to a greener environment.
Another sustainable practice involves recycling ink cleaner via a recirculation tank, significantly reducing the need for new cleaning chemicals. Finally, buying in bulk can lessen waste from containers and potentially offer cost savings.
In conclusion, there are numerous ways to make screen printing safer and more eco-friendly. It’s a misconception that sustainable options are more expensive and less effective. Proper research and experimentation with new products and equipment can help shops find suitable sustainable solutions.
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