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Sustainable printing: myth busters and best practices

At Printed.com, we’ve always been committed to sustainable printing and reducing our impact on the environment. From our sustainable and eco-friendly products to our recyclable packaging, we’re dedicated to doing good for our planet.

But when it comes to adopting greener processes for your business, there’s a lot of jargon to get your head around. So, to help you make more sustainable choices for your business, we’ve pulled together some of our top myth-busters and best practice guidelines below.

What’s the difference between recyclable and recycled paper?

Recyclable means paper can go into the recycling bin, versus the landfill. Basically, these products have the potential to be reprocessed into new paper and cardboard products, once collected and sorted at a material recycling facility. At Printed.com the majority of our papers are recyclable, with only a few exceptions (see below).

Recycled refers to paper that already includes content from previously used material. In other words this paper is already at least partly made from old paper products. To help you understand a bit more here are some of our own recycled paper stocks we have on offer:

  • Kraft: Our Kraft paper is manufactured from 50% post-consumer waste fibre, FSC certified, carbon neutral and produced with wind power.
  • Recycled Silk: Our Recycled Silk is made with 100% PCW fibres in a chlorine-free process. All materials are non-carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic.
  • Recycled Uncoated: Our classic recycled paper has an uncoated, course texture. It’s also FSC certified, completely chlorine-free and recyclable.
  • Lux: Our ultra-thick Lux paper is FSC certified and manufactured with wind power from Green-certified wind power projects.
  • Acquerello: Virtually chlorine-free, our Acquerello paper is FSC certified and produced using environmentally friendly ECF pulp.

In the UK, we use over 12.5 million tonnes of paper each year. (This equates to a forest the size of Wales!). But we also recycle around 80% of that paper. So by actively choosing recycled and recyclable paper choices, you’re knowingly supporting a sustainable printing process. (Which is pretty cool).

For more information about our sustainable paper stocks, check out our recent blog here

So what Printed.com products can I actually recycle?

Whether you’re wondering how to describe your new collection of ‘Eco-friendly Greeting Cards‘, or you’re stood at the recycling bin in a total daze – we’re here to help. Below is a list of common products and finishes that our customers use and more info on their sustainable printing credentials. 

Printed papers

These are recyclableWhen your printed paper is recycled, the de-inking process removes the ink from the pulp. Following the bleaching process, it can even become white paper again. 

Wrapping Paper

It’s recyclable! (well ours is anyway). Some Wrapping Paper is recyclable and some isn’t. If you’re placing an order with an external supplier it’s always best to check first. As a rule of thumb if the paper contains glitter, metallic embellishments or any type of coating then it can’t be recycled. 

Catalogues and Brochures

These are recyclable! Catalogues and Brochures can almost always be recycled. Even heavily printed material can be put to use again and again. You can even recycle documents that contain staples, because recycling processes are able to sift these out during the process (clever huh?). 

Coloured paper

It’s mostly recyclable. With a few exceptions, coloured paper can usually go in with your paper recycling. Any paper that is light enough to write on or is white on the inside when ripped can generally be recycled. However, very strongly coloured papers where the colour saturates the entire material may not be recyclable.

Greetings Cards

These are mostly recyclable. However again similar to wrap, papers that contain non-recyclable material aren’t something you can readily pop in your green bin. The could include any 3D elements of your Greeting Card design, such as ribbons or sequins.

Stickers

These are mostly recyclable. Our standard Stickers can be recycled (which is great if you are using these to seal your products or packaging). However the backing paper cannot be recycled, as this contains plastic to enable easy removal of each Sticker.

Laminated papers

These are non-recyclable. A sheet of paper that’s laminated in plastic cannot be separated and recycled using current methods. So when it comes to choosing Special Finishes that require the lamination process, this will automatically create a print that cannot be recycled (even if you have chosen a recycled paper stock to begin with).

Foil printed paper

These are non-recyclable. As part of our Foil printing process, a velvet lamination is applied to seal the foil elements. This makes the product non-recyclable. 

Spot UV and White Ink finishes

These are non-recyclable. UV coatings are not easily recycled and are non-biodegradable, and our White Ink printing options are only available on coloured card, which when combined makes this product non-recyclable.  

So what does it mean to be FSC certified?

The FSC is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. At Printed.com, we’re proudly certified to Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) standards, which holds us accountable to strict standards when it comes to environmental policies and procedures.

The FSC system allows businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood, paper and other forest products made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources. So by printing with us, you know that you are making sustainable printing choices for both yourself and your clients. 

Increasing the lifespan of your print

It’s great that we can both recycle and make use of recycled products for our print needs. However, paper can actually only be recycled between five to seven times. After that, the fibres become too short and can’t be used any further.

This is why making the switch to reusable print is also a great way to reduce your environmental impact. If you’re looking for ways to make it last longer, it really comes down to making the right choice. For example, Menus can be extremely versatile if you choose the appropriate finishes. If you print them on tearproof paper and finish with either matt or gloss lamination, you won’t have to worry about them getting crumpled or torn.

Products such as our Clear Roller Banners and Table Talkers can easily be reused for events and reduce the need for extra handouts as your information will be clearly displayed for everyone to see. So when you’re designing these make sure that your content is clear and future proof. 

Sustainable printing for the future

At Printed.com, our policy towards paper recycling can be distilled into 4 pledges:

Promote

We promote green products where possible to our customers, to enable them to make informed choices when it comes to their print.

Reduce

We look for innovative solutions to help us reduce waste, like reusing ink cartridges and investing in print technology that ​​​​​​​saves paper.

Recycle

We’re a zero to landfill site. 95% of our waste is manufactured back into recycled products and the remaining 5% is converted into Refuse Derived Fuel.

Improve

We strive to continually improve our environmental wellness. We’re actively reducing plastic in our packaging and improving our eco-friendly range. 

From compostable Cellophane Bags (made with renewable corn starch) to our Kraft Paper tape – there are many small changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. If you’d like to talk to us about these in more detail then please feel free to email us on theteam@printed.com.

We hope that this blog has helped shed some light on sustainable printing methods and cleared up some of your questions. To get stuck in with greener choices for your business today simple click below!

Our eco-friendly range

About the author

Jack knows everything there is to know about print. With nearly 20 years’ experience, he's an expert in everything from print floor processes to product specifications. When he’s not flexing his printing knowledge you’ll find him looking after his cat, Turnip. No really. That’s her actual name.

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