The printing industry has not been known to have a friendly relationship with our environment. For decades, paper has come from the demolition of nature’s very own trees–among other materials. While the damage to our environment may have seemed inevitable, in recent years printing companies have taken measures to ensure they minimize the harm on our surroundings. At PrintIT4Less.com, we are proud to be one of the companies that tries to lessen the effects printing has on our environment.
What exactly is paper and how did it become a mass industry product?
In our early days of school, we were taught that paper comes from trees. However, from the beginning of time, ancient civilizations used a variety of materials for writing and inscriptions–from cotton and bamboo to silk. The word “paper” is actually derived from the term papyrus, which is the Ancient Greek word for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the Cyperus papyrus plant. This writing material was widely used by the Ancient Egyptians and early Mediterranean societies. Interestingly enough, the first paper-making process was recorded in China during the Eastern Han period. In the 8th century, paper-making had spread from China to the Islamic nations, where pulp mills and paper mills were used to make what most of the world is after today: money. When the 11th century came around, paper making was introduced to medieval Europe, where it received an upgrade by using paper mills with waterwheels. Yet, it was up to the Western World to improve the paper making process in the 19th century when we invented wood-based products, using the fibers from wood pulp.
In order to make paper using trees, the raw bark is brought to a paper mill where it is turned into wood pulp (which is made up of cellulose fibers). Paper isn’t just made from wood. In short, it’s a combination of water, filler, and chemicals. Each piece of paper is produced in a certain way depending on the desired properties. The chemicals found in paper are used to ensure correct color, consistency and strength. Both hardwood and softwood trees are sought after for their frequently used paper products. Some examples are Aspen, Acacia, Pine, Eucalyptus, Spruce, Birch and Fir trees.
Naturally, the popularity of paper has remained steady throughout time. Can you imagine a world without paper? Probably not. An even less thought of concept is what we are doing to the environment each time we cut down a strong tree and turn it into a vulnerable piece of paper. From removing precious resources to creating large factories for its production (while using gallons of fresh water for manufacturing), the printing process takes a toll on Mother Nature.
The printing industry’s negative effects on the environment occur at three stages in the life cycle of paper. It begins with the harvesting of trees for their fiber (where chemicals and herbicides are put in soil), continues with the processing of wood fiber into pulp for the production of paper, and ends with the disposal of paper products. In an ideal paper making process, fiber would come from sustainable managed forests and recycled old paper–which saves trees (CO2) and forests, and reduces all the waste in landfills. Unfortunately, this environmentally-safe scenario only applies to some paper products.
In addition, over the years, printers have used toxic inks and solvents in the production process, and most of the toxicity ends up in the sewer systems and are released into the environment untreated. As the copy machine became cheaper and more readily available, problems with toner cartridges, toner ink, ink cartridges, and copier toner became a bigger issue–and the ability to recycle these materials were limited. Not to mention that printing/copying machines were generally used in a closed-door environment with little attention to air circulation, consequently emitting toxic chemicals into the air and causing unhealthy reactions in office spaces.
Where are we now?
Fast forward 20 years. Due to new environmental regulation, high cost of fuel and electricity and limited resources of raw materials, such as suitable trees for producing papers–paper mills have exponentially changed their paper production methods. For every tree harvested, mills plant a tree. Almost 100% of the water used for producing paper is recycled and reclaimed for treatment before being released into the environment. Most paper produced in the U.S. consists of recycled content. Printers have also cleaned up their acts. Most inks and solvents used are soy based, and MOST printers have a recycling program. Easier access to natural and biodegradable materials have made the printing industry a much friendlier acquaintance to our environment.
At Printit4less.com, we do our share by:
- Using soy & vegetable based inks.
- Recycling 100% of our waste paper.
- Only using recycled paper in production.
- Printing NCR forms using 100% recycled paper
- Reduced the use of solvents by 95% in printing all forms and the little we use are not only biodegradable, but is removed from our facility and retreated.
- All toners used at our plant are recycled, refilled and reused. Empty cans are sent to manufacturers for proper recycling
We do this for the environment and for future generations. We do this because it is the right thing to do. Today businesses are forced to think outside of the box and find new ways to compete in mass industries. Today PrintIt4Less.com is listed as one of the top 100 small businesses in our regent for growth and attention to our clients’ needs and our environment. For more information, visit printit4less.com.