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Transforming signage industry, challenges ahead Committed corporates think, implement…and go GREEN

Stringent measures being taken universally for ensuring sustainable development with specific concerned to improve environmental conditions tend to the constant advancement of smart and green technologies. Ajeet Singh, asst editor, Sign & Graphics points out what is happening in wide format industry in this regard.

Change is the most required and inevitable phenomenon for survival. In the pervading circumstances when environmentally-conscious consumers and eco-centric policies of the governments are evolving as the most influencing factors to determine the pace in large format printing industry, the concerned corporates – domestic and from overseas as well – are in process to transform, complying with policy framework. But as every such change generates some new challenges, the LFP industry is not an exception. It is facing challenges at both levels – printers and allied products manufacturers, and users (print service providers – PSPs), however solutions are poised to follow.

Since 1980s the ‘climate change’ emerged as a matter of public concern worldwide. In the wake of the establishment of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and its First Assessment Report in 1990, highlighting the global threat of climate change, the issue was taken seriously. Meanwhile, the Agenda 21, a global programme for transition to sustainability in the 21st century, was agreed at Earth Summit 1992, held in Rio de Janeiro, and Earth Summit 2002 (Johannesburg) affirmed UN commitment to ‘full implementation’ of this agenda. The UN General Assembly decided to launch negotiations on the issue, resulting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which came into force in March 1994. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3) in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February16, 2005 as another milestone in this regard.

 The emergence of ‘Type II Partnerships’ (since Earth Summit 2002), voluntary cooperative initiatives taken by non-state partners including corporate sector, which expect from all corporates that undertaking responsibility for environment, they would push some resources for R&D and take direct action in spread of civic amenities; and the actual start of the Kyoto commitment period (2008-12) on January 1, 2008, the time ahead is rather important for environmental improvement. At Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (5–7 February 2009) held with the theme ‘Towards Copenhagen: an equitable and ethical approach, to arrive at a global consensus on climate change beyond 2012’ also highlighted its significance and urgency, where insisting on swift action in this regard United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon warned that failure to tackle climate change could lead to insecurity and economic upheaval, and called all countries to strive to reach a ‘conclusive carbon emissions reduction deal’ at the climate change conference in Copenhagen scheduled to be held in Dec 2009.

Seeing the tip of the iceberg, many leading companies in the industry voluntarily started to take initiatives for reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions under individual corporate programmes. Meanwhile, a ‘Green Concept’ emerged in the industry, especially based on the twelve principles of ‘Green Chemistry’, originally published by Paul Anastas and John Warner in ‘Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice’ (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998). Generally considered as a guideline for corporates striving to work within, these principles include: prevent waste; design safer chemicals and products; design less hazardous chemical syntheses; use renewable feedstocks; use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents; avoid chemical derivatives; maximize atom economy; use safer solvents and reaction conditions; increase energy efficiency; design chemicals and products to degrade after use; analyze in real time to prevent pollution; and minimize the potential for accidents. Companies, ‘going Green’ are adopting these norms fully or to some extent, in offering their products and solutions, minimizing any or all adverse impacts on human health or the environment.

In this prevailing scenario, printers and allied products manufacturers are facing challenges especially related to the development of: eco-friendly ink technologies; printers, minimizing energy consumptions; and recyclable, biodegradable and compostable substrates – without any compromise with quality standards. While print service providers have to deal with challenges pertaining to offer cost-effective services in addition to eco-friendly and quality-oriented. But the basic principle of business is to precisely endure the challenges. So, leaders in the LFP industry are endeavouring not only to improve in-house environment but also are committed to serve the industry with eco-friendly products; a succinct overview of the technological developments taking place in this arena makes it apparent.

The next-generation of environment-friendly inks in the form of bio solvent inks technologies, based on renewable resource as corn (EFI, Mutoh), and HP Latex Inks technologies are the remarkable milestones in the path for GREEN, which uniquely provides all the benefits of traditional solvent inks, offering high print quality. Also, through eco-solvent-inks, mild-solvent-inks or lite-solvent-inks technologies, with UV technologies, the attempts are being made to minimise the adverse environmental impacts. The efficient state-of-the-art wide format printers are being offered to operate these technologies successfully. And the development of recyclable, biodegradable, compostable substrates is facilitating the progress in GREEN Movement, moulding signage as Ever Green Industry. Albeit, further relentless efforts are required to accomplish the feats, offering cost-effective yet environment-friendly products.

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