September 12, 2017

On recycled paper and “green” printing

From her new book Designing for Print, Marina Poropat Joyce answers questions on the environmental footprint of recycled paper compared to virgin paper. It’s not necessarily better to choose the former.

Is recycled paper more environmentally friendly?

A few factors need to be weighed in order to gauge the environmental footprint of recycled versus virgin paper. Is the paper mill state-of-the-art or turn-of-the-20th-century? That makes a big difference. Is the mill in a country that does not allow pollution downstream? China’s paper factories pollute more than American factories. Does the mill reuse effluents such as liquor and sludge, byproducts of the paper-making process, or does it dump these byproducts in a landfill?

How fuel efficient is the plant sorted the recycled paper? Are its trucks low emission? Are its conveyor belt motors gas-, diesel, or solar-powered? How close is the recycling plant to the paper mill? Will the trucks collecting all the recycled paper in the city have to drive a long way to the edge of the tree farm where most paper mills are located?

Is an old growth tree going to be cut down to make the paper? This should be avoided at all costs, and several groups have emerged to certify that the source of the paper is legitimate. The two most common names heard in printing are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). If you, the designer, or print buyer specify an FSC-certified sheet, then the printer must purchase from an FSC-certified paper merchant and print on that sheet. If printers are caught substituting other paper, the FSC can revoke their certification.

FSC SFI logos

How was the recycled paper de-inked (bleached) before being made into pulp? Some bleaching methods are terrible for the environment and super expensive to boot. Traditionally, elemental chlorine was used in bleaching, but because of its negative environmental impact, most bleaching processes are now Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF).

Is the recycled paper appropriate for the project? For instance, specifying a job with 100% solid ink coverage on a 100% PCW paper stock might backfire in terms of environmental responsibility because recycled papers use up to three times the ink of a virgin sheet when solid coverage is required.

What kind of paper is it? A cardboard carton? The page of a magazine? A paper grocery bag? All those objects require much less energy to recycle into that form than a sheet of fine writing paper or the page of a coffee table photography book. Most wood pulp fibres can be recycled about eight times before they lose the structure needed to be a strong sheet of paper and wind up in the sludge at a paper mill. Virgin paper is important for introducing strong fibres into the paper-making stream and complementing the mix of recycled pulp. It is also important for that coffee table book you want to pass down to your children. Let’s assume the paper comes from a state-of-the-art US mill and was chosen by a very environmentally conscious recycler in a city where all the paper is sorted close to the mill. If all of these conditions are met, then the resulting recycled paper is more environmentally friendly. Recycling is great so let’s all do our part. Buying recycled paper and specifying recycled paper creates demand. Just don’t specify recycled when you really need virgin, and remember, we need to add virgin paper to the recycling stream.

Designing for Print

Designing for Print.

Is recycled paper more expensive?

It depends. Kraft paper is recycled, brown, and inexpensive. Recycled paper that is whitish with flecks is more expensive than kraft, but less costly than a bright white recycled paper with no flecks. To make recycled paper, the mills need to buy or make pulp from paper that has been de-inked — pulp costing more than pulp from a tree. That cost is passed to the customer who can then weigh the value versus the cost.

Does the paper industry plant more trees than it cuts down?

Yes, but increasing tree farm acreage at the expense of natural forest is not equal in terms of biodiversity, habitat, etc.

Does recycling paper save trees?

When used paper is substituted for virgin pulp, it reduces demand. Recycling helps to reduce the amount of land that needs to be used for tree farms and may preserve native forests. However, a tree in a native forest is not the same as a tree on a tree farm. A natural forest differs from a tree farm in biodiversity and habitat. In ecologically sensitive areas where pressure to convert natural forests to tree farms exists, recycling can help decrease the demand that causes that type of pressure.

Marina Poropat Joyce

Marina Poropat Joyce.

Marina ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund production of her Designing for Print book (available for pre-order). She’s clearly an expert in her field, with the book covering topics such as inks, specialty coatings, finishing techniques, paper choices, colour models, choosing a printer, job schedules, fold considerations, press checks, and a lot more. Best of luck with it, Marina, and thanks for the review copy.

April 11, 2017

Alan Kitching on his life in letterpress

Design Week spoke to letterpress legend Alan Kitching about his career in design, and how the industry has changed over the past three decades.

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July 22, 2016

How it’s made: producing a bus blind

Since 1978, Manchester-based McKenna Brothers have specialised in the supply of “destination blinds,” LED and dot matrix signs to the passenger transport industry. This short video explains how the team make bus blinds.

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February 11, 2016

Digital Print. A Bigger Spectrum.

A Bigger Spectrum is a book by Silas Amos that looks at how top brands are using digital print to increase sales.

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May 17, 2015

Printing Flaunt

Armin and Bryony of UnderConsideration have just released the second edition of Flaunt: Designing effective, compelling and memorable portfolios of creative work. It's available in print and as a single licence PDF, and Armin took time to answer a few questions about the book's printing and packaging.

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July 15, 2013

Banknotes for the visually impaired

Only the United States prints banknotes that are identical in size and colour in all their denominations.

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January 17, 2012

Paper from G . F Smith

A nice surprise in the mail earlier.

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July 20, 2010

Recommended UK commercial printers

It takes time to find a reliable commercial printer, so here’s a head start — UK print companies vouched for by some of the UK’s top designers and studios.

Recommended by Helen Jones of The Partners.

Orchid Print
London — 020 8986 8969

Screaming Colour
London — 020 7549 3400

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Recommended by Katie Morgan of (the late, great) 300million.

Gavin Martin Colournet
London — 020 8985 0805

"Not only do they provide an excellent, consultative service, but they also have a great resource called the 'Print Lounge' where you can go and browse through all the print they have done — a fantastic source of inspiration."

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Recommended by Steven Willis, creative director at B&W Studio.

Harrogate Print
Harrogate, North Yorkshire — 01423 523449

Teamprint
Littleborough, Lancashire — 01706 370092

"Simon at Team helped us out when we first established B&W Studio nearly six years ago. We still enjoy a great relationship with them today and they're always up to the task whatever ridiculous specification or timeframe we throw at them. Their quality and attention to detail is exceptional."

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Recommended by Blair Thomson, creative director at Believe In.

Generation Press
Brighton — 01273 857449

"Proper printers who understand print and know no boundaries. Attention to detail at every level. The designer's printer. Tip-top environmental credentials."

Kingfisher Print
Totnes, Devon — 01803 867087

"Local printers with great value and a high-quality service. These guys know their stuff and print some great work."

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Recommended by Paul Ellerker, director at Branch.

Wellington Press
London — 020 8558 9290

"They're really responsive, competitively priced, and generally very nice people."

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Recommended by David Hyde of Studio Hyde.

Dayfold Print
Verwood, Dorset — 01202 812203

"For high-quality printing from a company that specialises in working with and for designers."

Park lane Press
Corsham, Wiltshire — 01225 815010

"For high-quality environmental (waterless) printing."

Indigo Press
Southampton, Hampshire — 0800 652 7299

"For 'package price' print (good for stationery)."

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Recommended by Tom Lancaster, creative director at Stylo Design.

Dayfold Print
Verwood, Dorset — 01202 812203

"They’ve been super reliable and produce quality results."

A second thumbs-up for Dayfold.

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Recommended by Lee Newham of Good People.

Kopykat Printing
London — 020 7739 2451

"They’re excellent. Eco printers, FSC certified, use vegetable-based inks, etc. I can’t recommend them highly enough."

Hot Metal Press
Barnsley, South Yorkshire — 01226 740498

"They print hot metal as the name suggests, are incredibly helpful, and good at what they do. Also very reasonable."

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Recommended by Jamie Wieck of Airside.

Principal Colour
Paddock Wood, Kent — 01892 835005

"Competitive, inventive, and above all recognise that what they produce ultimately impacts the environment."

Calverts Co-operative
London — 020 7739 1474

"The quality of their work is legendary, so they tend to be a tad more expensive than other printers, but you get what you pay for."

Jigsaw Colour Printers
London — 020 7394 2799

"Excellent at handling massive quantities of print work and are set up to take on your biggest projects without batting an eye lid."

coloured paper stockImage via Thinkstock.

Updates from the comment thread

Recommended by Alan Anderson of Blue Tube Design.

Minprint Ltd
Belfast, Northern Ireland — 028 90705205

"Always a high standard of work, accurate and competitively priced."

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Recommended by Simon Hutchings of Visualise Graphics.

Wincanton Print
Wincanton, Somerset — 01963 33643

"They’re a wealth of knowledge, great value and offer a superb service — highly recommended."

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Recommended by James Greenfield of Proud Creative.

Push Print
London — 020 7231 1166

"Great print and quality service."

Generation Press
Brighton — 01273 857449

A second vouch for Generation Press.

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Recommended by Steve Bell of Zavial Design.

Remous
Sherborne, Dorset — 01963 250920

"We’ve been using Remous for seven years. High quality and reliable."

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Recommended by Andrew Kelsall.

RCS
Retford, Notts — 0800 328 5064

"Not only do they have all the latest printing technology, they also have a smashing print catalogue that is reprinted and updated every year. If you go to their site, you can get a free copy if you’re in the design trade."

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Recommended by Ebi Atawodi.

ist printing
Beith, Ayrshire — 01505 500 000

"I've just done some foil blocking with Ian. Very cheerful/friendly and a great quality printer."

Copytech Digital Print Solutions
Tunbridge Wells, Kent — 01892 538280

"Highly recommended, especially for short run bespoke work."

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Recommended by Chris Skelton of What Creative.

Team Impression
Leeds — 0113 272 4800

"Amazing service. Top quality."

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Recommended by Simon C Page.

Ripe Digital
Corsham, Wiltshire — 01225 815033

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Recommended by Morag Malloy of (the late) Fission Creative.

CCB
Glasgow — 0141 891 4700

Hay Nisbet Press
Glasgow — 0141 959 3325

J Thompson Colour Printers
Glasgow — 0141 429 1094

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Recommended by Rebecca Owen of Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners.

Face Creative Services
London — 020 7713 9797

Pearl Print Management
London — 020 8875 9160

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Other print resources

Lovely as a Tree collates the finest printers and paper, rating everything by how environmentally friendly it is.

Inker Linker is predominantly US-based and lets you find printers specialising in specific printing techniques.

And a few money-saving questions to ask your printer.

January 22, 2010

Hatch Show Print

A fascinating eight-minute look at Hatch Show Print, a 130 year-old working letterpress shop (established 1879) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Read more

October 20, 2009

Prepress tips for graphic designers

When you send files to a commercial printer there are a lot of things that can go wrong, costing time and money, so to help, Sigurdur Armannsson — art director at the Icelandic Ad Agency — has prepared sixteen prepress tips that cover the major aspects for correction in your artwork. By checking each tip as you go your files will be in excellent shape for sending to the printery.

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David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
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Northern Ireland
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