Autumn officially has arrived. As night-time temperatures dip into the low 40s, winter already is knocking on Chicago’s contracting door stoop. Even during the PRINT 13 show in early September, the weather was in the 90s for a few days, which was unseasonably hot, then it dropped. Inside, some show-goers turned on the heat in their hotel rooms; outside, the homeless sleeping on the streets scrambled to keep warm on chilly nights. On the city’s Northwest Side, church volunteers met to repurpose and crochet plastic grocery bags, weaving them together into pads that soften homeless sleep on the hard, cold ground.
There are companies that do this, too. TerraCycle, a global firm based in Trenton, NJ, is focused on recycling everything from worm poop (into fertilizer) to cigarette butts (into plastic pellets). It upcycles and recycles traditionally non-recycable waste (including drink pouches, chip bags, and tooth brushes) into a large variety of consumer products. TerraCycle products are available at a range of retailers, from Target to Walmart, as well as online.
In Seattle, large-format print firm Stella Color has created a profit center by selling products created from its waste. Cleverly sewn bowls made from salvaged off-cuts are priced at $25 or $30, plus shipping, depending on size. Materials vary and can be anything from printed vinyl, mesh, canvas, or fabrics (basically anything that can be sewn). “No two are alike,” claims Stella’s website. “Pop them inside-out for a different look!” Fashion totes ($30) are another product featured in the print firm’s “upcycled goods” line. A $35 portable tool/arts-and-crafts caddy has plenty of pockets, and a re-used cardboard lining keeps it rigid.
Stella Color installed the first HP L65500 latex printer in the Pacific Northwest, boasting a 100-inch print width at 1,200-dpi resolution. The SGP-certified firm continues its commitment to the environment with the region’s first low-VOC ink supply system. It also offers continuous-tone printing at 2,880 dpi with a 64-inch Epson 11880. The device uses a nine-color ink system featuring proprietary UltraChrome K3 inks.
“There is a trend toward latex, UV, and aqueous -- and away from solvents -- as [environmental] regulatory pressures increase with regard to indoor air quality,” points out Dave Sunderman, marketing manager at Visual Marking Systems (VMS), Twinsburg, OH. In Ohio, he added, a baseline metric now is part of the air-quality assessment process from the state’s Bureau of Workmen’s Compensation. There are rumors about more chemical bans coming in California and confirmed reports from across the “pond” in Europe.
At the national level, it is no secret that to protect workers against the health effects of exposure to hazardous substances, the U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) enforceable permissible exposure limits have gotten more stringent for air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “Limiting employee exposure may mean adding a new shift, improving ventilation systems, or adding other safety equipment,” the VMS executive noted.
“At VMS, we’ve gone completely solvent-less unless a customer requires it, which is less than two percent of our business,” said Sunderman, who also became a board member at the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) this past January. “We’ve also consolidated our supply base for wide-format [print], vehicle graphics, and tradeshow displays … and try to choose new equipment that uses less energy,” such as its latex and two electrostatic inkjet devices (HP Indigos).
Putting on his SGP hat, Sunderman explained that there are two ways to recycle material. The first method is to pulp, grind, and repurpose. The second way is by incineration. “Thermoset basically melts down plastic to remold it,” he said, adding that problems set in when toxic and even deadly emissions are the result of the burning process, depending on polymers and molecular structure.