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Flexo Sustainable : Spring 2012
Sustainability in the Flexo Industry 2012 By Doreen M. Monteleone According to the findings of the Flexographic Techni- cal Association’s (FTA) 2012 Sustainability Survey, the green movement is being linked to and integrated into good business practices. Polling indicates that measurements, reports and certifica- tions are being taken, compiled and attained. Retail giants and large consumer goods manufacturing firms continue to promote sustainability at the behest of consumers and because of positive impacts—like waste reduction and pro- duction efficiencies. As the survey illustrates, members of the packaging development chain, including package buyers, graphic designers, prepress technicians, printers, converters and even end users, are embracing the green movement—al- beit to varying degrees. For example, the survey reports on printer-members’ thoughts on their particular process, their knowledge of en- vironmental consciousness, what customers were asking for and how they are responding. Retail giants and large consumer goods manufacturing firms continue to demand sustainability within their sup- ply chains. Diageo was the latest major print buyer to join Walmart, Unilever and Proctor & Gamble to announce their own sustainability guides. The company states that its vision is to manage and reduce the impact of its packaging at every stage (see page 2). As part of the supply chain and to stay competitive, flexographic printers must implement and vali- date their sustainability efforts. FTA polled its printer-members to better understand the current status of the sustainability movement within the flexo industry. Members were asked about their particular process, their knowledge of sustainability, what customers were asking for and how customers were responding. Where appropri- ate, this information was compared to results from a similar survey taken one year earlier to determine trends. The 2012 FTA Sustainability Survey provided answers from 73 flexographic printers. The results were compared to a previous survey which included responses from 60 printers as was reported in the April 2011 issue of FLEXO Magazine. In both surveys, one response was obtained per printing facility. For the 2012 survey, 83 .6 percent of the printers were from the United States, 12.3 percent from Canada and 1.4 percent each from Latin America, Asia and Europe. Flexible packag- ing printers accounted for 57.5 percent of the audience, while 42.5 percent were tag/labels/decal specialists. Printers were asked what ink systems they used and were allowed to select all that applied. When taken in total for the industry, there was a shift away from solvent to radiation- cured UV/EB ink systems with a nearly 8 percent decrease in solvent use and a 13 percent increase in UV/EB use. However, for just flexible packaging printers, nearly 67 percent were using solvent inks; 52.4 percent used water; and 31 percent used UV/EB. As expected, label printers predominately used water systems with less than 10 percent using solvent; nearly 94 percent water and more than 87 percent UV/EB. While sustainability was barely in anyone’s vocabulary five years ago the concept is now well known. Printers were asked their degree of familiarity with the concept. Compar- ing the two surveys, if anything, there appears to be a greater understanding with nearly 5 percent more printers indicating that they were very familiar with environmental conscious- ness. Very few printers—less than 2.5 percent polled—are not familiar at all with sustainability. In 2012, more printers saw sustainability as both an eco- nomic and environmental concern. This shift could be due to customers now requiring sustainability accounting and/or that 12 Sustainable FLEXO spring 2012 www.flexomag.com
Year End 2011