The wide-format industry isn’t known for printing to environmentally friendly media, but there are now a number of more sustainable substrates around.
There's a lot of talk about environmentally friendly printing, but not so much in the wide-format sector because of the nature of the substrates typically in use. However, it's striking that many of the newer materials coming to market are being hailed as more sustainable offerings for this arena.
Pyramid, for example, recently launched the PolylinePro range, which uses polypropylene instead of PVC. It’s sourced from Israeli company Mapal. Marketing manager Neil McCarthy explains: “Our key users were the big retail chains so we were hearing that they wanted to move away from PVC-based products.”
Polyproylene can be collected for recycling, where it is turned into plastic pellets ready to be made into other products. Pyramid has a grade that is made from 100% post-consumer waste. It’s suitable for UV flatbeds and screenprinting.
McCarthy says that Pyramid’s biggest selling product is a display board called All Weather Board, which is also recycled from 100% post consumer waste. This is used, amongst other things, for advertising on the back of buses. Pyramid guarantees it for three months but McCarthy says that it will last outdoors for up to 12 months. Again, this is suitable for UV flatbeds and screenprinting.
Digital Brothers, based in Warsaw in Poland, is the European distributor for a Canadian product called Polyethylene, which it describes as a new kind of large-format media. It’s suitable for UV, latex and solvent printers and is designed mainly for banners. It is said to be lighter than paper, stronger than most other media and yet completely recyclable. It’s sold in rolls up to 3.8m wide, in 90, 105 and 172gsm weights, and with a choice of matt or gloss finishes.
Ilford created a lot of stir with its BioMedia last year and has recently added glossy and matt laminates to the range, which are also said to be fully biodegradable. The 75 micron laminates are suitable for a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications including banner stands and in-store retail display boards.
The rest of the range includes Display Film, which is compatible with solvent and latex printers, available in standard roll sizes and in 300, 400 and 550 microns. There’s a separate version for UV printers, as well as a Rigid Display Board, also for UV printers. This is available in 750 microns, 1.5mm and 2.7mm thicknesses and is aimed at heavy-duty signage, internal cladding and displays.
The key to the BioMedia system is an additive that is mixed with the plastic base of the media. Martin Lannon, technical support specialist for Ilford explains: “Without the additive the plastic would be there for many hundreds of years. With the additive in place the microbes that are found in landfills, which are breaking down other things in that environment, are attracted to the plastic and help break it down. The additive gets the process going.”
Sihl is now selling its eco-friendly TriSolv paper in the UK. This can be used in the same way as self-adhesive vinyl films but is much less harmful to dispose of. It works with solvent ink and is ideal for cardboard or pulp board uses.
Signs made from this can be recycled in small quantities along with waste paper and card from packaging. Generally larger quantities can be incinerated because they have a good thermal value and are more eco friendly. Also very little additional CO2 is produced during this procedure because both the boards and the TriSolv media consist primarily of renewable materials.
Dufaylite makes Ultra Board, a rigid substrate which consists of a honeycomb core made of recycled paper, sandwiched between 450gsm white facing, which is sourced from FSC certified forests in the UK. It is totally sustainable, 100% recyclable through traditional routes and is said to use up to 86% less energy to produce – making it one of the greenest boards on the market.
Dufaylite recently launched an edging product for these boards to give them a clean, sealed finish, while still being completely recyclable. Made with 250gsm paper, there’s a choice of black or white, available in 50m rolls in the same 6mm, 10mm and 18mm range as the boards themselves. It comes with peel-off backing for easy self-application.
BCP Fluted Packaging has developed a new alternative to using foam and solid display boards, called Ditto Formcore. It uses a recyclable laminated structure made up of two embossed layers formed symmetrically and laminated to coated board. It’s biodegradeable and since it is made with high quality white paper it retains a value when sold for recycling. It is said to be lightweight and to work well in a variety of retail conditions, including when used around chilled conditions. It’s suitable for die-cutting and creasing and can be formed into unique shapes. BCP says it can be used as permanent store decoration, as well as short-term marketing.
In conclusion, substrate manufacturers are clearly waking up to the fact that the wide-format print sector also needs to be seen to be green, particularly in the retail sector, where the pressure from consumers is mounting.
Biodegradability sells it
Newprint, based in Newcastle, Staffordshire, is a general commercial printer that also offers some wide-format services, including pop-ups, banners and even the occasional giclee print, using a HP Z21 DesignJet. The company has been a long-term user of Ilford films, and recently switched to BioMedia.
Director Leigh Wilbraham says that he was dismayed when told that Ilford were changing distributors and his preferred stock, SB8 film, was being discontinued and that the replacement, BioMedia, was £60 a roll more expensive. But once he was assured the price would remain the same as before, he agreed to try it.
He says: “I assumed that BioMedia would mean poor quality so we tried it reluctantly but now we wouldn’t use anything else. It has fantastic print quality and it's a more rigid material.” He adds: “It’s instantly dry, there’s no ink coming off on your fingers as it comes out of the machine.”
Wilbraham says that using BioMedia is also helping to bring in work: “The biodegradeability is a selling point now. We have always been price driven but we have now found that customers like the biodegradability and it helps us clinch orders.”
Showing off green credentials
BAF Graphics, based in south London, has been using Dufaylite’s Ultra Board for around four years now. Anthony Baglioni, business development manager, says that many customers are already familiar with it and will ask for it anyway: “It’s one of those products that clients use because of its sustainability and its environmental stance.” Baglioni says that it’s a nice material to work with: “It’s a very good product and it receives a print very well. It’s a rigid and flat material, and as the heads are running 1.5ml above the sheet you do need something that's fairly flat.”
There are other cardboard products around, at different prices, but Baglioni says that the Ultra Board has a good balance between cost and performance, explaining: “Cost tends to be driven by the amount of paper so there are other products that have a denser honeycomb towards the centre of the sandwich, and the more paper the more expensive the product. Dufaylite for us has been a good benchmark in that it has enough to perform as a display board without being too expensive.”
However, BAF is unlikely to be using the new edge tape, as Baglioni points out: “Every time we have printed on the product the edge has been left exposed as people want to show off that they are using a card type product. It's one of the few products that we can show a layman what it's made of. People will show off the edge to demonstrate that they have chosen an environmentally friendly product. And it has a charm about it.”