Tech gyaan on green initiatives

A number of Indian printing firms say that they are the ultimate green printing company. So which Indian printing company is the greenest? Is it the one who is least environmentally damaging? The one that is emitting the lowest level of greenhouse gases and no CO2? The one with least carbon footfalls? The one with the most environment certifications?

06 Sep 2012 | By Rushikesh Aravkar

Right now, three things are happening in our industry.

1). Print firms are including green as part of their profile; thereby raising the green attributes of the whole industry
2). Many small printing firms are doing a better job of the green; in the way they handle materials or control waste
3). Green has become part of the marketing strategy
While speaking to my colleagues in UK and Australia, my understanding is: the entire printing sector, worldwide, has made inroads in becoming one of the world’s most sustainable industries.

The advances in printing and pre-press technologies over the past two decades have been nothing short of incredible. The industry has reduced its impact on the environment by much as 97%.
This is true of India - at least among the top firms.
They are doing this in two ways. Firstly, they have taken on board all of the advances in technology that has resulted in a significant ‘dematerialisation’ of the trade: such as less solvent, less waste paper and less waste of ink. By investing in newer printing and pre-press equipment, the average firm has cut its energy usage. This has been a natural stage of their business growth. But it has created a positive impact on the environment.
The second stage is the difficult part. This is where leading Indian firms have sorted out parts of their business where significant effort must be made to cut out waste, reduce energy, fix up supply chains and measure the total outcomes. Only a handful has done this second step. They are rightly leaders in the industry.
 The Tetra Pak plant in Chakan is one of them. The plant is equipped with building management service with occupancy sensors which monitors and manage heating, ventilation and air conditioning and an innovative vapour absorption machine to capture heat from generators to enhance cooling capacity.
Subodh Kulkarni, packaging material and supply chain director, Tetra Pak, says, “While going for the capacity expansion we decided to construct the plant such that from the first day it conserves energy and resources and can be an ideal green building.”
Tetra Pak claims that the use of solar energy and glass roofing in its Chakan factory helps to minimise the use of artificial lighting and reduce non-manufacturing energy consumption by 30%. Rainwater harvesting and water-efficient fixtures will suffice the water supply requirements of the plants. Landscaping will feature over 2000 native plants and includes keeping 15% of the site untouched.
Kulkarni explains, “Our ambition is to certify the energy efficient and water efficient Chakan factory to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold level. LEED is an internationally recognised green building rating and certification system.” Speaking about the high investment required for the green initiatives, Kulkarni says, “Of course there will be huge investments, but if you are confident and committed about your end goals then such investments are worthy enough.”

As a part of going green, Tetra Pak has started collecting and recycling the used Tetra Pak cartons. For this they mapped the post consumption life of the carton and found that the cartons finally lands in landfill. Kulkarni said, “We started the process of collection of the used cartons in Delhi with the help of rag-pickers and the assistance of several NGOs. Then nodes were established where the waste was collected. The collected waste was then taken to the recycling units. The collection of cartons was started in 2004 but the actual recycling started in 2007.” In India, about 16-17% of the total Tetra Pak cartons produced are recycled by the company.

The Tetra Pak cartons are produced from paper, plastic and aluminium. The recycled paper fibres are sent to the paper mills for manufacturing recycled paper. The recycled plastic and aluminium are used to produce poly-Al board which is an alternative for cement board. “In Gujarat, the poly-Al board is widely used and we are taking efforts to promote it as a viable alternative to be used in the market,” Kulkarni added.
As a part of educating the end-user about the importance of segregation and recycling of waste, Tetra Pak has tied-up with several schools to spread the word of recycling. “Educating the next generation will help to inculcate the thought process in favour of recycling,” says Kulkarni.

Tetra Pak which produces paper based packages is accredited with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Kulkarni said, “FSC monitors the depletion of forests. Being FSC certified adds value to the products and is the major contributor in Tetra Pak’s commitment towards environment.”

One key concern is: environmental certificates.

Plenty of industries and manufacturing plants are more damaging but none spends as much on environmental badges. There is little doubt that private label environmental certifications have been a big growth area in the printing industry; as a result there is considerable confusion. Almost all green certifications follow the same model: market pressure and careful manipulating of the media. The printing industry has been hypnotised by green certifications opportunists. No other industry feels the need to collect so many labels and logos to justify their green credentials.

During an STB forum; there was suggestion made that many other industries that should have been the focus long before printing. The simple truth is many print shop managers and owners have little idea about the certification they have or feel they need to aspire toward. One book print firm CEO said, "I am yet to hear any printing firm explain how the particular forest certification they have just paid a lot of money to get has reduced ecological damage to the planet." The print CEO added, "The point that is missed is that certifications do not close the loop on making society more sustainable. They just make certifiers very rich. Certification is a labelling business. True sustainability is about being and acting sustainable, not buying it or being forced into it without commitment.”
Which four-wheeler brand is better? Which cell phone or tablet? Which airline? Is Google greener than Facebook? Do Coke’s environmental credentials beat Pepsi? KFC or McDonald’s? No one knows; and one wants to know. All I do know is, those industries are much, much larger than the global print sector and massively more environmentally destructive.