A client recently asked me if using recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, really does make a difference to the environment. This question often comes up after a carbon inventory highlights the embedded energy and associated CO2e emissions in print materials, be it regular office paper or professional print jobs.
While my immediate response was “yes, recycled paper is less resource-intensive than using virgin forest”, I thought I would research this to see how the difference could be quantified.
According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, producing one tonne of recycled paper saves an alarming:
- 31,780 litres of water;
- 4100 kilowatt/hours of electricity;
- 75 per cent of chlorinated bleach;
- 27 kilograms of air pollutants;
- 13 trees;
- 4 cubic metres of landfill; and
- 2.5 barrels of oil
The ACF also lists a number of Australian producers or stockists with office quality recycled paper. If you’re not already using recycled paper, you should look at the Little Paper Book.
So what about vegetable-based inks? Inks are made using a liquid base, and then adding a pigment and a bonding agent. It is the choice between a petroleum or vegetable base that is key here.
Petroleum based inks are less than ideal for a number of reasons:
- They continue our reliance on crude oil, a non-renewable resource
- Petrol and alcohol evaporate during the printing process, releasing Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) and affecting air quality
- A harsh solvent is needed to clean printers which have used these inks, resulting in more VOCs
- Petroleum based inks are difficult to remove during recycling and results in a toxic waste product.
Alternatively, vegetable based inks are derived from renewable sources such as corn, linseed, canola etc. There are no VOCs released during its use or cleanup and no toxic waste is produced during recycling. More information on inks can be found here.
For those people and offices already using recycled paper and vegetable-based inks – well done. I hope this blog has hopefully provided some new information to support your decision. For those not using them, I would urge you to consider it. The statistics above are alarming and as the quality of recycled paper increases, it is difficult to see any reasons why you shouldn’t make the switch.