For those of us who cherish the habit of our daily printed newspaper or favourite monthly glossy, never fear, your passion for print doesn’t harm the planet, and here’s why…

Since we collectively washed out our bad 80’s hairdos and strutted into the 90’s, the printing industry also got busy eliminating its bad habits – reducing its carbon footprint by more than 90 per cent. It was a decade that saw printing machines reduce energy use by around 40pc (every ten years), and the entire industry reduced chemical use by 98pc.

Whilst the environmental credentials of printing have been in the spotlight, with today’s savvy brand marketers all looking to add green bona fides to their repertoire, large corporates regularly proposing they will reduce or eliminate paper and printing from their business as a sustainability proposition actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Why? Because the paper and print industry is one of the only industries where the end product is completely recyclable, reusable and raw materials are sourced from renewable resources.

Rawson Print Co. director Lachlan Finch explains: “Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products and it also acts as a carbon store. For example, over a single year a mature tree will take up approximately 22kgs of CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere and in exchange release oxygen.

“When trees are converted into paper, the captured carbon actually remains intact, creating a CO2 storage tank. Harvesting trees from certified forests (FSC) allows new trees to be planted removing more CO2 from the atmosphere while also releasing more oxygen.”

He adds paper is also entirely recyclable, or even better, reusable in many other areas of society – catalogues recycled to tissue or packaging paper for example. The amount of solid waste from pulp and paper-making is so little, it is measured in kilograms for the entire year. On the other hand, digital waste is far more significant and its recycling rate is appallingly low.

Digital media has a significant environmental impact that many eco-conscious consumers may not be aware of. The energy consumed in the manufacture of digital products, energy needed to power them and the toxic e-waste associated with their end-of-life, are largely out of sight.

According to Two Sides Australia, producing and sending a paper statement creates on average 28.37g of CO2. An email with a 1mb attachment takes 19g of CO2 to send alone. However, if the email is saved, forwarded, downloaded or printed this amount becomes considerably more.

Over at Rawson Print Co., all of our production processes are measured against industry best practice to ensure we are achieving cost and waste reduction, process improvement and environmental sustainability. Whilst it didn’t happen overnight, our process change was thoughtfully considered and executed.

In the 1990s, one of the first steps we took was to introduce computer to plate technology (CTP) to eliminate film reproduction. In a CTP workflow, removing one generation of image reproduction increases the sharpness of the type and image detail. With this technology we use fewer chemicals and less water. Additionally, electronic proofing also uses fewer materials while providing faster turnaround and the elimination of the need for couriers, further reducing CO2 emissions.

We followed this up in the early 2000s, switching from petroleum based to soy and vegetable-based inks. Vegetable-based inks are a renewable resource not requiring harmful solvents to clean the printing presses and are easier to de-ink, unlike petroleum-based inks in the recycling process.

By the mid 2000s, we introduced digital printing presses to reduce waste for short run print jobs. Then in 2010, we received our Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation. This process ensures that your products come from responsibly managed sources, inspected and measured against strict standards based on FSC’s 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship.

Our eco-friendly plate processing technology was installed in 2013, and the following year, we replaced our old press with the latest HUV technology reducing our overall power and water consumption. Further reducing waste reduction and energy consumption, we invested in installing the HP Indigo 10,000 digital press.

Our next major investment came in the form of Australia’s most state-of-the-art closed loop recycling system. Billed at around half a million dollars, it automatically extracts paper waste and compacts it for secure recycling.

Furthermore, in 2019 we invested in the installation of the latest technology Heidelberg Offset printing press: the most technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable offset presses available in the country. It is equipped with an in-line aqueous water-based coater enabling printed paper recycling without harmful by-products.

The hard work has certainly paid off and in our latest September 2020 Environmental Impact Statement, commissioned by Grown Waste Solution, we recycled approximately 30 tonnes of paper, effectively saving 392.47 trees, 120.76 cubic metres of landfill, 123.779 kilowatts, 75.48 barrels of oil, and 959.44 kilolitres of water.

We are proud of our continued investment in a raft of environmental strategies addressing recycling, waste reduction, product and printing press technology. It allows us to be held accountable to our clients, their customers, and the environment. To find out more please visit https://www.rpco.com.au/sustainability/ or get in touch with our team.

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