Is Sustainable Print Finishing Actually Possible?

Finishing printed products is one way to make the final product more attractive. And it’s the right mix of design, substrate and finishing that has a bigger impact on sales as you probably already know. Some special methods thus make it possible to change the final product in an improved way. Finishing techniques are often not environmentally friendly though. Is it still possible to focus on sustainability and guarantee high-quality finishing at the same time?

Problems with the “Deinking” Process

Take a look at the current focus on sustainable substrates to be clear about a few things. Certain forms of finishing lead to a high energy input and make the recycling process more difficult. Here’s an example: A printed product is to be produced sustainably and has been printed climate neutrally on an uncoated 100% recycled material and then receives a foil embossing and/or a UV coating. Obviously, it is contradictory and may look like a non-solvable issue. But why is this the case?

Due to the high energy yield that occurs through these forms of refinement, the recycling process of such print products is complicated. Print finishes (especially varnish) can therefore not be removed from the paper compared to tried and tested products of the offset printing process with a deinking process, for example. UV-curable inks are a challenging issue in deinking. They cross-link through the polymerization induced by UV light and lie film-like on the paper. However, since UV inks offer enormous advantages in the printing process due to their fast drying, they are being used more and more. Maintaining the balance between efficiency and the recycling process that suffers from it is no easy task as you can see. Is there any way of inventing techniques or systems that can help out of this discord?

Do Sustainable Finishes Exist?

Making print finishing consistently sustainable is proving to be very difficult. However, there are already some alternatives that become increasingly in demand in today’s world. Finishing with water-based systems based on renewable raw materials is one of these possibilities next to a few others, such as blind embossing or (laser) punching. From a technical point of view, the implementation is already possible through flex printing or the screen-printing process. The latter offers a lot of scope and optimally allows a variety of metallic effects to be achieved by adding pigments. Ink manufacturers, such as Siegwerk, are already working on improving the deinkability of their UV inks and presented a UV/LED offset ink system for different paper grades. This was an important step in consistently striving for sustainability.

THhe “INGEDE e. V.” Association

The International Research Association Deinking Technology e.V. aims to maintain and improve the recyclability of graphic print products. They are committed to various issues, which include not only the promotion of companies and projects in this area, but also the necessary public relations work in Europe regarding the recycling of graphic print products. Alternatives are ultimately more than necessary and inevitable nowadays. Commodity prices and the price of oil are rising, leading to higher logistics costs. Some manufacturers cannot even produce due to the shortage. However, this situation can be made an opportunity for those who want to advocate sustainability. But as it has always been, the client must also show interest in and support this path in order to achieve sustainable goals.

Sustainable print finishing is definitely possible and not a contradiction. Saving energy and resources can be in line with effectiveness and efficiency when the printing industry works together. Progress in this area is guaranteed and will certainly bring successful innovations in the future, that’s for sure.


Do you already know examples for sustainable print finishing and its current situation? Are you excited for upcoming innovations that may help to support a more sustainable world?

Leave A Comment