Special Report: Sustainability & the Environment
● Postconsumer material comes from products that have fulfilled their original purposes. If they’re not recovered, they’ll head for landfills. Catalogs, direct mail pieces and undeliverable mail are all examples of postconsumer waste.
Environmental Protection Agency guidelines on recycled paper require a minimum of 30 percent postconsumer content for uncoated printing, and a minimum of 10 percent postconsumer content for coated sheets. The higher the percentage of recycled components, the less use of virgin fibers.
Beware of Bleaching
Your next questions should relate to the method used to brighten the sheet. Here, you want to find the method that uses the least chlorine, as the toxins and pollutants from chlorine bleaching have been associated with adverse effects on wildlife and the environment. Ranked from best to worst:
● processed chlorine free: recycled paper that’s processed without any chlorine compounds;
● totally chlorine free: virgin paper made from pulp that’s bleached without any chlorine compounds;
● elemental chlorine free: paper that’s been bleached using oxygen, chlorine dioxide or other chemicals rather than pure chlorine; and
● chlorine gas: paper brightened with chlorine gas — the most harmful to the environment.
Consider Soy Ink
Most printing is still done with petroleum-based ink. With your printer, explore whether your catalog can be printed with an alternative ink that has a less volatile organic compound. Per Wikipedia, volatile organic compounds are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the earth's atmosphere.
One possibility is to consider a vegetable-based ink, such as soy. Ask your printer what percent of its ink comes from vegetable oils rather than petroleum.
Offset vs. Digital Printing
Is it time for you to explore printing your catalog and promotional materials via digital printer? Offset printing is clearly superior for image resolution, speed and the diminishing cost per piece as the run size increases. But for jobs that have smaller run sizes and don’t require superior images, digital printing presents a viable alternative.