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Flexo Sustainable : Fall 2008
Great Plate Debate T hroughout the past year, answers to questions regarding sustainability have often revolved around the obvious suspects: substrates (the largest cost element of a package) and inks (which aren’t even considered on Wal-Mart’s Score Card). But there are more consumables in the flexographic printing process than just substrate and ink. All of these will have some degree of impact on the environment, including raw materials and energy for their manufacture and methods of disposal. Photopolymer flexographic printing plates are one great ex- ample. The photopolymer material requires consumption of petroleum-based raw materials, and, whether done in-house or by a prepress provider partner, requires energy to image and process. All known processing methods—solvent wash, water wash, and thermal—create waste, and that waste must be disposed of. In the pages that follow, two plate material manufacturers (Flint Group and DuPont) present studies, conducted independently of each other, on the environmental impact of platemaking, imaging and processing. The key focus of both studies is the same: a comparison of digital solvent and digital thermal platemaking. Many of the types of data collected are similar, though not identical. Beyond that, the two reports differ greatly, especially as far as scope, depth of research, research methodology and calculation methods are concerned. What is most notable, however, is that the studies draw quite different conclusions about solvent and thermal platemaking. There are several points where the articles disagree and others where they outright contradict each other. Disclaimer: Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) and FLEXO Magazine takes no position on the findings of either study, in part or in whole. As such, it intends for the information that follows to be taken on an “as is” basis. The editorial staff has offered little assistance and absolutely no commentary whatsoever. It is presented to you almost exactly as it was presented to 6 Sustainable FLEXO Fall 2008 “It is the responsibility of you, the reader, to draw conclusions and determine the value and authority of the data.” us. It is the responsibility of you, the reader, to draw conclusions and determine the value and authority of the data. Both articles only present a part of the story. The full studies are much too large to present in their entirety in this publication. We encourage readers to do their own research, contact one or both companies, and request more information. It is of critical importance that all companies and in all areas of the flexographic printing industry—including the printers/converters themselves—do as much as they can to determine their impact on the environment. Only when we know how we’re affecting the world around us can we hope to change for the better. These studies are an essential first step toward truly sustainable printing and packaging. n For more information on the DuPont study, contact: Debbra A. K. Johnson DuPont Packaging Graphics 302-999-2270 debbra-a.k.johnson@ usa.dupont.com www.cyrel.com www. f le xomag.com For more information on the Flint Group study, contact: Dan Rosen Flint Group Flexographic Products 847-669-8054 firstname.lastname@example.org www.flintgrp.com
End of Year 2008