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Is Digital Printing Sustainable?

Updated: Feb 23

Sustainability is important in decision-making for many industries in today’s changing world. The printing industry needs sustainability to lower carbon and environmental impacts. But is digital printing sustainable? We will elaborate more on this topic as a company that uses cutting-edge technology.


Let’s discover how digital printing technologies are creating a new era in the printing industry.


Is Digital Printing Sustainable?


In the 21st century, “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” are not just trendy buzzwords but calls to action. With climate change and decreased natural resources, every choice you make leaves an imprint. This is where the printing industry comes into play.


The printing industry has made considerable efforts to be more eco-friendly. Digital printing is a fascinating solution with many environmental benefits. So, the answer is yes. It is more environmentally friendly than screen printing and offset printing.


Our company aims to deliver high-quality services without making a negative ecological impact. That is why we have adopted eco-friendly digital printing and cutting-edge technology, which is time-saving, costs less, and saves the environment simultaneously.


Is Digital Printing Sustainable
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: KOKTARO

Digital Printing: The Eco-Friendly Alternative


We have seen digital printing making a revolution in the textile printing industry, offering a sustainable textile printing - alternative to traditional techniques.


Fabric designs are directly printed onto the fabric without screens or plates using digital presses. This eliminates the production of film positives and offset plates. Hence, this technique reduces waste and carbon emissions significantly.


The role of paper in digital printing


We want to highlight why we have chosen to use digital printing. Since CityPress is an eco-friendly company, we have seen how digital printing reduces paper compared to traditional printing.


Digital printing technologies have evolved to support paperless workflows. Digital printing eliminates the need for paper prints, reducing paper and chemical consumption. It doesn’t need to use printing plates or transfer stickers. The specially designed printing machines are connected to computers. So, computers can print images directly on the material. This makes digital printing much easier and faster than traditional printing.


Reduction in waste and materials consumption


Digital printing does not require printing plates, and you do not have to think of disposing of them after use. Plus, the raw materials are reduced by printing on recycled paper, leading to minimal environmental impacts.


Moreover, digital printing is different from traditional methods. It does not need setup time or material preparation. Traditional printing methods often create a lot of waste when setting up and cleaning.


So, we are happy that digital printing enables on-demand production. This allows us to create customized and limited-edition prints. When we print only what is needed, we reduce overproduction and decrease the amount of leftover inventory, which often results in waste.


Environmental Benefits of Digital Printing


Is digital printing eco-friendly? Yes, it is. Digital printing has many other environmental benefits besides waste minimization. The main thing we like about digital printing is that it is safe for both printing operators and the environment.


In other words, it requires water-based inks, free from harmful chemicals. This means it eliminates the need for solvent-based inks, which release volatile organic compounds contributing to air pollution.


That is why we have streamlined the printing process with digital printing and minimized energy usage. We consider ourselves a sustainable company since we lowered carbon emissions.


Environmental Benefits of Digital Printing
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Skorzewiak

Waste reduction


Digital printing requires less paper than conventional printing. We noticed that traditional printing ends with 15% waste for every order, while online printing cuts this percentage to 5%. The waste can be further reduced with the use of recycled paper.


Lower costs


Digital printing reduces the overall printing costs. This is because we do not need new plates as with traditional printers. It is easier and cheaper for us to print marketing materials like brochures, flyers, business cards, and forms digitally. Plus, we can change document sizes digitally, which also reduces waste.


Quality


One of the best things about digital printing is that the work is consistent from the first to the last copy. We can adjust colors, shades, and lines to the desired degree. Digital printing also offers settings like brightness, contrast, and saturation. Another key aspect of digital printing is its ability to produce high-resolution, sharp, and detailed prints.


Less toxic chemicals


When it comes to traditional printing, each piece is printed with chemicals. Besides needing solvents to make plates, we also need tools for removing ink from the rollers. This leads to water contamination. Luckily, that is not the case if using digital printing.


Digital printing uses less toxic chemicals to eliminate the need for plate-making, film stripping, and setup. Since the digital printing process is entirely digitized, there is no need for chemical-involving materials like film, plates, and ink solvents.


Speed


Digital printing simplifies the printing process and it makes it quicker. You know that business printing requires volume and quantity. The good news is that with digital printing, you can get your order the next day, unlike with conventional printing, when you have to wait several days.


No wasted inventory


Digital printing is on-demand. This means you can place minimum orders without wasting inventory due to changed designs, recipes, etc. Digital printing is fast and flexible; we do not need to print excess inventory in advance. This saves us from throwing thousands of unusable paper.


No cancer-causing VOCs emission


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often released when using traditional printing. Some of these compounds might be harmful. They might irritate the nose and throat, cause difficulty breathing and nausea, and harm the nervous system. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), digital printing produces no emissions.


Send and approve proofs electronically


With the traditional printing method, getting a press proof takes time and effort and produces unusable paper. To make a business card proof, we need to make plates, string paper through a press, print on it, and cut the printed piece. However, digital printing allows customers to see the final product without printing it.


Understanding the Environmental Impact of Traditional Printing Methods


Screen printing and offset printing have long been the go-to methods for printing. Yet, these techniques come with an environmental footprint. For example, film positives used in screen printing produce much waste due to their disposable nature.


On the other hand, offset printing involves using offset plates, which are made from aluminum. Such plates contribute to excessive carbon emissions. So, traditional printing methods have a significant printing impact. Here are some key factors contributing to their environmental impact:


Water usage


Printing requires water-based inks and cleaning solutions, leading to a significant amount of water consumption. Also, the water used in printing contains many chemicals, like solvents or metals, which may contaminate the water.


Chemical usage


Traditional printing requires the use of chemicals. For instance, in offset lithography, many chemicals are used for making plates, developing inks, and cleaning. So, if not disposed of properly, these chemicals may be toxic and harmful to people and the environment.


Chemical usage
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: FUN FUN PHOTO

Energy consumption


Traditional printing requires a lot of energy to operate printing presses, pre-press processes (plate-making), and post-press activities (drying, cutting, and folding). This energy consumption leads to higher carbon emissions.


Conclusion


Is digital printing sustainable? Shortly put, yes, it is. Digital printing has several environmental benefits. It reduces waste and materials consumption while also eliminating harmful chemicals.


As a company, we are proud to use eco-friendly practices. We do this to meet our social responsibility and attract eco-friendly customers. So, we use advanced online printing because it helps reduce the ecological impact of printing.



Steve Bates

Steve is the president of CityPress and brings a wealth of knowledge from the printing industry to readers, helping them make more informed decisions in an ever changing printing space.

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