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As COP26 wrapped up in Glasgow, and Australia commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a date which is likely to move forward, the print industry will face increasing demands to show its environmental credentials.

However industry leaders say print is already well advanced in the transition to a sustainable industry, and is increasingly able to show the market its carbon emissions are rapidly declining. With the current government unlikely to mandate action, the drive to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint will come from the industry itself and the market, a move which has been underway for the past 20 years, but which will now be turbocharged.

Eco credentials will likely become, along with price, service and quality, part of the matrix of printing tenders, and in fact it is already the case for many jobs, particularly from government and corporate print buyers.

Walter Kuhn, president of employers association PVCA said, “Print is already way ahead. Many printers have all or some of their power coming from solar, and power is what COP26 was mainly about. I would imagine there are no other industries that use as much solar power as print.”

Kellie Northwood, CEO of The Real Media Collective said, “Print can be proud of its environmental record. Very few industries have reinvented themselves to the extent that print has. Print has a great environmental story, and one that we need to get out there in the mass of misinformation that exists.

Northwood identified carbon mapping for print businesses, and a campaign against claims that print means deforestation, as two key planks in TRMCs sustainable programme in the new year.

Kuhn pointed to other areas where print is able to demonstrate its environmental credentials, such as its paper supply, which is now virtually all accredited. He said, “In addition, recycling of used consumables is a part of most print businesses, processless plates are becoming the norm, bio-degradable chemistry, vegetable inks, LED lights are all available, and the equipment itself is becoming recyclable.”

PVCA runs a Sustainable Green Print (SGP) programme, which provides a pathway for printers to pursue an environmental objective. Kuhn said, “Print businesses can use SCP to get where they need to be in environmental terms, and then confidently go to market with those benchmarks.”

According to Kuhn carbon offsetting should be just part of the environmental toolbox. He says, “At the end of the day if you are offsetting you are putting carbon into the atmosphere, the goal should always be the reduction of that carbon output.”

Northwood said, “We are a high energy industry. The first step in addressing this is to work out exactly how much carbon we are emitting. In Q1 next year TRMC will release a carbon mapping programme for members for this exact purpose. This will then lead into solutions, such as solar power, dark factories and other green solutions. Through mapping we can establish targets.

“The second key area for the industry is deforestation, or rather the misconceptions around paper and print and deforestation. There is still a perception that printed matter impacts negatively on the world’s forests, even though the reality is that commercial paper used in Australia and New Zealand comes from certified, sustainable, plantations. TRMC is working with Two Sides and PEFC to address these misconceptions.”

Northwood said the focus on carbon emissions, waste and recycling is impacting the industry across the board, particularly in substrate usage, she said, “We are seeing a move to fibre-based substrates across a range of sectors, in packaging for instance which is moving away from plastic, and also in display, POS and signage which have used synthetics extensively. We need to ensure that any perception of paper does not hinder the industry, and that the facts are communicated clearly.”

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