How Ink Manufacturers And Their Suppliers Are Working Together to Achieve Sustainability Goals

In the face of the impending consequences of climate change, many industries are facing the challenges of adapting production and their use of raw materials to the corresponding conditions. This dynamic is also being experienced by the printing industry. Raw material manufacturers in particular report that their ink customers are becoming increasingly familiar with sustainable approaches such as cradle-to-cradle product development. Companies’ efforts to operate sustainably also stem from a key customer need for sustainability.

Ambitious Goals For Sustainability Strategies

According to Joon Choo, president of Shamrock Technologies, ink manufacturers are showing increasing interest in sustainable production.

“This is becoming more of a talking point as more customers calculate their percentage of recycled material, biodegradable and renewable materials, and their carbon footprint with the assistance of Shamrock’s technical team”, 

says Choo.

Ink manufacturers have set high goals for their companies’ sustainability strategies. It is also due to this that many of them are now asking their suppliers for advice on raw materials. Measures include the use of recyclable and renewable packaging and a general reduction in plastics in packaging. Despite all the ambition, of course, the goals must also be realistic, says Dr. Juhasz, Ph.D., Global Technical Director of Sustainability at Sun Chemical. Tim-Frederic Sloot, Head of Sustainability and Innovation Performance, Coating Additives at Evonik, also reports a high demand for sustainability and regulatory requirements in the printing ink industry.

“Issues such as food safety of ink and coating formulations, the migration level of individual components and the reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have become the most important aspects in ink formulations,”

says Sloot. There is a high interest in ink components made from renewable or recycled resources, he said. Probably one of the biggest trends, for example, is the circular economy, which actively supports circular packaging solutions. For this reason, Evonik is a member of the CEFLEX (Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging) joint initiative.

Legal Regulations Promote Change

Strict standards in the procurement of raw materials in Europe and the United States are also generating a lively interest in process transformation. In particular, the relevant rules for additives and pigments in food packaging materials such as printing inks, are really forcing companies to act. This is also confirmed by Falko Orlowski, VP of Trust Chem | NA. The company has an instrumental analysis laboratory where qualitative analyses of products and quantitative detection of impurities are carried out.

“In particular, this includes tests to identify contaminants prohibited by law, and we provide technical support for synthetic testing and internal quality control. Trust Chem is also involved in the coordination of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) assessment,”

says Orlowski. 

Simon K. Foster, Industry Marketing Manager, Printing, Packaging, & Adhesives – Dispersions & Resins North America at BASF, opens another discussion point by referring to customer expectations: They are increasingly demanding sustainable products, to which companies must respond. Sustainability can mean many things, starting with sustainable raw materials, the recyclability of products, or even the long-term volatility of raw materials.

“We are actively working with many ink and coatings manufacturers, as well as other players in the value chain, to help the industry achieve our long-term goals. Collaboration is critical to support the adoption of more sustainable products and approaches; this will be even more necessary as we move toward many of the industry’s commitments to adopt more sustainable packaging by 2025.”

he concludes. 

Major Sustainability Initiatives

It’s not just ink manufacturers who are making the change, but also their respective suppliers. At his company, Shamrock’s R&D labs are therefore working with globally sourced materials and partners to find and develop high-performance additives that use recycled or bio-based renewable materials. The goal is to find the best-performing materials that meet customers’ needs without compromising efficacy or cost, Choo reports. Using innovative approaches, manufacturing has saved an estimated 15 billion pounds of CO2 emissions, Choo further reports.

Trust Chem has developed a number of measures as part of its sustainability strategy, including the selection of advanced equipment and the introduction of optimized process designs, such as heat recovery and reuse technology, to improve production efficiency and reduce energy consumption, Orlowski says. It’s also important to keep an eye on sustainability trends when developing new pigment products, reports Ruth Bauer, Global Sustainability Manager, Colors & Effects at Sun Chemical.

“Ink manufacturers are looking to raw materials and natural resources to formulate inks that improve the compostability, recyclability and bio-renewability of their various commercial and packaging product lines,”

Bauer reports. Evonik has launched another sustainability initiative with its Circular Plastics program, which focuses on closed-loop solutions for the plastics industry and Evonik products based on recycled raw materials. The products are made from renewable, non-tropical raw materials and are easily biodegradable, Sloot reports. Efforts are being made, for example, to use carbon dioxide as a raw material for chemicals. BASF has also taken a leadership role in global initiatives that primarily advance the circular economy. Foster summarizes:

“For example, we have a growing portfolio of water-based barrier products that enable further reusability and recyclability of packaging currently destined for landfill,” he said. These products also enable the industry as a whole to switch packaging formats from plastic to paper, which can be more easily recycled within the existing infrastructure.”

He added that BASF will also address the growing demand for sustainable raw materials with an expanded portfolio of bio-based and biocompatible products that enable formulations with high bio-contents and minimal performance penalties.

How important is it to you as a customer that companies act sustainably? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

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