More Government Regulations
The general consensus among those we spoke with is that additional regulations from federal, state and local governments are a fait accompli. Given the well-articulated philosophy of the current administration, it’s likely federal regulations will only become more stringent, Amerine says. For her part, Kinter believes more and more regulations will be part of the future, and will not only focus on inks but overall solvent usage, including clean-up solvents used within print facilities.
Regs will address air permitting issues, and issues of hazardous and solid waste, she predicts. “Many regulations are already in place, but a number of smaller and even larger output facilities are unclear how the regulations impact them,” she says.
“The regulations will never say, ‘You cannot use this equipment.’ What the regulations may do is put a limit on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by any one facility. The regulatory agencies don’t really care about how you lower your VOC emissions, they just mandate those emissions be lowered. That may or may not impact the smaller print facilities. And to be honest, many of the smaller facilities may never be impacted, from the standpoint of emissions. But from the employee safety standpoint, they’re already impacted. That’s because OSHA regulations do not exempt facilities on the basis of the number of employees they have.”
Up north, Keays embraces a perspective not unlike that of Kinter. The only additional government regulations Canada is likely to witness in the near future involve proper venting and workplace safety, he says. Wide-format printers are not the only folks using harsh chemicals. Offset printers may be using vegetable based inks, but they are still cleaning their presses with solvents, he asserts.
Moreover, Keays says any government regulations requiring a small shop to stop using solvent inks cannot take place overnight. Owners will have to be granted ample time to switch equipment and materials before regulations are enforced.
“I, as an owner, have been saddled with a lease on a perfectly good piece of equipment I could not use because the technology was not current,” he says.
“This was my own choice as an owner. [It was] not necessarily a good one but at the time, we had to upgrade our technology to stay competitive and eat the least payments on the old equipment. Most shop owners will upgrade their equipment at some point. If they do not, their businesses will probably fail.”
Keays also argues there are issues other than solvent inks the industry must address. One is how to dispose of release liners. He tries to use as many liners as he can for packaging, but acknowledges they will eventually go into landfills.
“The coating on the release liners prevent the paper from being recycled,” he notes. “I have found a company that will take my core ends and polyester laminate waste and recycle them into roofing shingles. But, in my opinion, we have a lot of unnecessary waste due to manufacturers’ greed. I own a printer that uses 440 ml. ink cartridges that can’t be recycled. It is made from plastic with some circuit boards and never completely empties. If the manufacturer had a little vision when designing this machine, it would use larger, refillable ink containers that are recyclable.”
Finding viable alternatives to replace solvent printers involves imaging pros uncovering options that work with their shops’ product mixes, Kinter says. Each needs to evaluate what technology makes most sense for their particular output. It doesn’t make sense to embrace a technology that won’t work with their customer base.
Kinter envisions regulators not dictating what equipment to use, but rather setting limits to encourage printers to examine alternate technologies to lower their emissions.
Print professionals may also decide on their own, without compliance considerations, to examine how to lower their environmental footprint. “We’re seeing a number of printers come to that decision of their own volition,” she observes.