Agfa Graphics draws the attention to a White Paper "Environmental Impact of Print: Analyzing an Industry" that was published recently.
The author of the paper comments on data from a comprehensive study commissioned by Agfa Graphics and executed by VITO, an independent Flemish institute for technological research, which involves a product carbon footprint (PCF) analysis of Agfa Graphics' most recent computer-to-plate systems. As this assortment of systems represents a mix of plate imaging technologies also used by other manufacturers, the results of the study can be generalized to the extent that most conclusions in the White Paper are valid across the entire plate supply industry.
Ecological vs economic benefits
The paper points out that the processes taking place at the plate manufacturer's site (Agfa Graphics or others) together with the pre-press activities at the printing plant account for 20% of the total PCF – the other 80% being accumulated in the preceding production process of lithographic aluminum, which, in fact, is the same for all plates. Although differentiation can, therefore, only result from the remaining 20%, small but meaningful differences are observed between the various plate technologies examined by VITO. It turns out that the newest computer-to-plate systems, being those with the highest degree of convenience and cost savings for the user, also have the lowest PCF contribution. The author of the White Paper interprets this as another sign of convergence between ecological and economic benefits, equally observed in other industry sectors, and therefore as an encouragement for all contenders in the graphic industry to continue seeking improvements in sustainability.
"Agfa Graphics fully endorses the White Paper as a document that underlines and recognizes their continuous efforts to support the Graphic industry, not only with products and systems but also by encouraging operational sustainability at all levels of print production," Dominiek Arnout VP operations at Agfa Graphics concludes. "It should not be denied indeed that the graphic industry, in common with all industries, has an impact on the environment. But if all contenders take their responsibility serious for reducing the environmental impact for their part of the print production process, the Graphic industry can continue becoming more and more sustainable."
Impact of recycling
Another statement by the author of the White Paper relates to the recyclability of the aluminum scrap from printing plants. Due to its high grade and short-term availability the lithographic aluminum waste provides a substantial PCF credit so that, e.g. the environmental impact of the most advanced computer-to-plate systems is only as low as 3.1 – 3.3 kg CO2 equivalents per square meter of a (gauge 275μ) plate. When properly recycled, the lithographic aluminum scrap can be re-injected, not necessarily back into the plate making industry but into other aluminum end-use markets – preferably those with an extended life span. Such a recyclability paradigm means that the world's increasing aluminum stock acts as a resource bank, over time delivering more and more practical use and value from the energy embodied in the metal at the time of its production.
Throughout the paper it is duly recognized that a study of the carbon footprint of computer-to-plate systems is only one part of the total environmental footprint of the industry but, nonetheless, serves as a valuable and credible beginning. In this respect, Agfa wants to join efforts with other contenders to examine the common issues and to discover new ways to make the printing industry more sustainable. Dominiek Arnout concludes, that "extending this kind of research into a complete life cycle analysis (LCA) is certainly one of the tools to do so."