Knowledge Is Power for Environmental Stewardship

As the Environmental Protection Agency increases its review of regulations of air emissions affecting global warming, package printers have to review their chemical usage and the resulting emissions as well as the control equipment currently in use. With more stringent regulations will come the need to assess the technology currently in use, and plot action plans to either eliminate or reduce the impact on the environment.

This trend was noted in the past year as some state agencies sought to tighten emission standards under a more lax federal government policy. With greater stress nationally on the damages to our environment, as evidenced by signs of global warming and climate change, printers should be considering the status of equipment, use of chemical products and the ensuing release of detrimental compounds to the atmosphere and the environment.

Exactly what are the waste products we are emitting into the air around our facilities? What are the constituents and how do they impact on human health and the ecology? These are questions which can be answered by record keeping and periodic lab tests. The question is whether you are doing this now. Do you know your impact?

Measure Your Impact

One method is to use a spreadsheet to collect the data based on usage of the compounds that are being released from the operations of each plant. The effectiveness of control equipment, such as oxidizers and solvent recovery systems, can be factored in at the end of each item to ascertain the actual amount leaving the facility.

Use the Material Safety Data Sheets to obtain information as to composition of the hazardous components and percentages of the total product. Then construct the spreadsheet so that each product is broken down into its components and where the waste products are going based on purchases or usage by month and cumulatively for the year.

The rows can be used for the product, and the columns for the collection of purchases or usage by month and the distribution of the amounts purchased or used by component for the month, the year to date or by quarter.

For air emissions, consider the efficiency at which the add-on controls are operating. Reduce the emission leaving the facility by the percentage efficiency at which the controls are operating. This is determined by the stack test which is required by law to comply with environmental regulations.

Questions to ask are then related to performance over time. Has the percentage destruction declined with age? Is the catalyst no longer functioning properly? Have you reached a point when replacement is in order? Exactly what is the chemical composition of the air emitted after press and control equipment is taken into account?

Follow the paths of your waste streams. In addition to the air emissions, account for the wastes discharged to the sewer system, entering the water supply. Chart the amount of solvents entering the recovery systems, and the resulting amount of reusable solvents taken back into the process.

What happens in both cases with water and solvent wastes that are not discharged or reused? Where do they go and what precautions are taken to assure that they do not infect the ecology? Can they be minimized or completely eliminated?

Last, but not least, is the assessment of your current equipment, its maintenance and performance. Are you in good shape? Can the equipment be brought up to date or improved to reduce emissions and wastes?

If the time is here to replace a press or other processing equipment, are you prepared to replace it with equipment that will be more effective in the environmental arena? Have a dialogue with your suppliers and interact with their technical teams to provide the information and solutions you may need.

Don’t Just Sit There!

Don’t wait until there is little time to act. Do your analysis now and prepare your facility with technology and procedures that will bring you into compliance with federal and state mandates.

Wastes—whether air emission, solid or hazardous—have negative impacts on both personal health and the environment. Knowing what they are, the quantities involved and the relative harm they may do to your personnel, the community and the environment can provide a tremendous incentive to chart a course that will reduce or eliminate the use of chemistry and technology that produces these wastes.

And at the end of the day, the results will be not only a cleaner and sustainable environment in your plant and its surroundings, but a more profitable operation.

Fred Shapiro is president of P-F Technical Services Inc., a management consulting firm to the graphics arts industry. He is also a member of the PIA/GATF “Solutions on Site” consulting network. Contact him at (301) 598-7949.