All About Pigments: Sustainability in Today’s Ink Industry

It can be said with confidence: Pigment manufacturers thrive on incorporating sustainable materials in their products as well as improving their manufacturing process. Ink World, the industry’s news and information provider, invited experts in the ink sector to share their sustainability goals as well as their knowledge revolving around pigments.

Ink specialists share their common goals on the journey to increasing sustainability: a broad term that encompasses many aspects, for instance reducing CO2 emissions, recycling, de-inking or bio-based raw materials. Subjected to strict regulations, pigment manufacturers are continuously on the search to reduce carbon footprint by evaluating new raw materials and thereby making manufacturing more energy efficient. Not forget to mention: Joining hands with customers helps to address their specific sustainability goals, and therefore fulfill their requirements.

Positive Environmental Impact on Textile Manufacturing

Rachel Li, Segment Marketing Manager at FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group, is convinced that inkjet pigment inks are a more sustainable solution to dye-based printing, as dye consumes more water and energy throughout the manufacturing and printing processes. She predicts that headways in ink technology will facilitate the expansion of its application in areas, such as fashion textiles, thanks to its better softness and colour vibrancy. Ms. Li further explains:

“Lower energy (lower heat) drying allows thinner materials to be used. For pigment to be a suitable replacement technology, high functionality inks are required, and the quality of the pigment dispersion is critical to enabling this. As a dispersion supplier, Fujifilm is working with its customers to enable advances in pigment ink technology and in its own inks.“

Increased (Customer) Demand for Sustainability

It can be no doubt about it that the making of pigment is highly natural resource intensive. To put it simply: To create a pigment that is 100% sustainable is very challenging for pigment manufacturers, as they have to take aspects, such as the requirement for cost, unchangeable performance, shade and colour strength, into consideration. With reference to it, pigment developers must modify their process steps to lower energy consumption by using resources to reduce the volume of waste as well as to increase the recycling rate, substituting greener ingredients or sourcing from suppliers with a sustainable mindset, for instance. Let us take a close look at the sustainability goals of some pigment manufacturers around the world.

Pravin Chaudhary, CEO of special projects for Pidilite, shows the company’s determination for sustainable production:

“Governments around the world are tightening regulations with regard to air and water pollution. Pidilite took many initiatives in moving dependence from fossil fuel to renewable energy, units are ZLD (zero liquid discharge), and we are first among many companies to publish sustainability reports certified by external auditors, while also practicing good human resource management.“

Mike Rester, Market Segment Manager Printing at Heubach Group, demonstrates its eco-friendliness through its bio-based raw materials:

“We do incorporate some portions of sustainable materials, for instance in our quinacridone chemistries. Heubach’s quinacridone pigments can be partially made with bio-based raw materials while maintaining the same high quality and performance. The usage of bio-based raw materials reduces CO2 emissions by up to 33%.“

Suzana Rupcic, Head of Global Segment Management Merchant Inks, Colour Materials at Sun Chemical, points out the ink compostability linking to health compliance:

“At Sun Chemical, we offer a variety of sustainable pigments that provide answers for compostability in package printing or sensitive applications to protect human health. The right pigment chemistry supports a product’s overall compliance with compost purity limits. The printing ink, including the pigment, which remains on surface of a compostable package must stay within the EN 13432 regulation limits. Relevant components include, for example, volatile matter, heavy metal, and fluorine. Benefiting from our long-term experience with purity limits for sensitive applications like food contact materials or toys, we have built a comprehensive pigment portfolio that complies with the highest purity standards to support a sustainable future.”

Carlos Hernandez, Marketing Manager Coatings & Printing Systems Americas at Orion Engineered Carbons, reveals how the company seizes the opportunities of the threatening climate change and thereby discloses further about its so-called “green” carbon black solution:

“Renewable oil, which is already technically feasible, will be an important feedstock. Using renewable oil as a feedstock is one of the most capital-efficient means of decarbonizing the production process within the confines of the currently visible technology trends. However, there are several challenges along the road to fully substituting renewable oil for fossil fuels in carbon black production.”

The pigment market is expanding its sustainability goals industry-wide. Based on the industry voices, the continuity of supply is no longer guaranteed, and therefore the ink makers view sustainability as the product’s availability as well as embrace its ongoing regulatory compliance.

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