Recycling Digital Print

By | February 10, 2009

Since the “Inkjet Drupa” last May there has been a lot of discussion on the recyclability of papers that have been printed using digital printing methods. In September 2008 the Digital Print De-inking Alliance (DPDA) was created between HP, InfoPrint Solutions Company, Kodak´s Graphic Communications Group, and Oce N.V to sponsor research on the recyclability of inkjet-printed paper.

InfoTrends recently released a strategic assessment that “looks into the process of paper recycling, investigates the current state of the art, and provides an overview on possible strategies as recyclability will become an even stronger qualifier for the acceptance of future products and processes.” The assessment Challenges and Strategic Importance of Recycling Digital Print was conducted by Andrew Tribute and Ralf Schlözer.

In an article published at WhatTheyThink Andrew Tribute points to the need for partnership to move new digital printing processes to the point where these processes are environmentally sound:

What we really should be considering is that digital printing technology has an excellent record of ongoing development. Initially dry toner based xerographic printing was very poor for deinking, but today is considered ideal for this. There is no doubt that those technologies that are giving problems today, will be enhanced to be excellent for deinking with a few years. It is also interesting to note that the products of both HP Indigo and aqueous pigmented ink output from inkjet presses is very small percentage today of the total amount of recovered paper. By the time the volume of such output becomes a more significant percentage of the total amount of recovered paper within two or three years, these outputs will not cause a deinking problem. One also has to consider that aqueous pigmented inks rather than solvent inks are going to be the future of digital inkjet printing, and we have to ensure such output is fully recyclable. Ingede should in fact recognize this and be more inclined to work with the DPDA and other organizations in ensuring aqueous inks, both pigment and dye based, become more environmentally suitable. It should see its future as a partner to the companies developing the future environmentally sound printing technologies rather than just an organization that simply looks at today’s problems of deinking in the paper recycling process.

Read the rest of Andy’s article for more details on the findings in the InfoTrend report.

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3 thoughts on “Recycling Digital Print

  1. Axel Fischer

    There are many facts just rendered wrongly in this discussion. Many of what is said about deinking here has limited factual basis, some statements look more like quoting some companies’ interests. This starts to become annoying as it is being repeated over and over.

    DPDA was formed already in April. In September the first press release was published. The date is wrong in the InfoTrends assessment and has been corrected by Andy Tribute for the article quoted above.

    Since 2001 INGEDE has tried to get in contact with inkjet manufacturers in order to cooperate in terms of recyclability/deinkability. Despite many efforts at many occasions like the NIP conferences and a multitude of personal e-mails, they avoided the discussion until spring 2008, when INGEDE published another press release about problems in deinking inkjet.

    Then finally in April 2008 representatives of Kodak Versamark, HP Inkjet and Océ Inkjet followed an invitation of INGEDE for a round table discussion, and as a result formed DPDA which is very much appreciated by INGEDE. Finally, the printer industry becomes aware of its responsibility for the total life cycle of the printed product. It is not sustainable (and not compatible with all the green claims being made) to place the costs of coping with the environmental disadvantages of a new product on somebody else’s shoulders rather than taking product responsibility.

    The InfoTrends assessment is a dispensable investment as the facts are available at no cost from various other sources. This assessment has too many clearly biased claims to be a credible source. The full contribution of Andy Tribute quoted above is already more valuable than the InfoTrends paper.

    The facts are simple: Deinking is the key process in paper recycling. Hydrophobic (water-repellent) ink particles are separated from hydrophilic (water-wettable) fibers. This process has been developed for offset and gravure inks which are roughly more than 95 % in the current recovered paper mixture.

    Current waterbased inks create problems as they cannot be removed in this process and accumulate in the system. Closing the water-loops is the major environmental achievement of the paper industrie in the last two decades, at least in Europe. Here dyes and small hydrophilic ink particles have no other exit than the fibers: They stain them just as red socks dye the underwear in the washing machine.

    One way to solve this problem has already been demonstrated by HP: The Web Press which was presented at drupa used an experimental ink system where a ‘bonding agent’ led to a precipitation of a special pigmented ink on to of the paper fiber network rather than bleeding into it. The windfall profit is perfect deinkability. As it looks now, pigmented inks provide the chance for a solution that matches the deinking process, for dyes this is improbable.

    Even small amounts can create problems. It is unlikely that e. g. inkjet printed newspaper will be evenly distributed among the total paper collection, so mere percentages are irrelevant. If only one neighbourhood is supplied with an inkjet printed newspaper, the household collection from here will not only be useless for recycling but a significant problem if it mixes with other, originally deinkable paper. The same would be true for a high-volume transpromo mailing. Already the paper industry has problems with a variety of small contaminations, e. g. from SOHO inkjet printers, leading to a rising background of brightness problems in the mills.

    For completely different reasons, liquid toner (Indigo) prints create problems. They leave large, visible dirt specks resulting from the very flexible ink film that peels off the paper. It needs enormous amounts of energy and leads to significant fiber losses to reduce the number of dirt specks. INGEDE tried to discuss this with HP for more than four years until finally some contacts developed. Still for liquid toner there is no solution in sight.

    Dry toners for about 20 years have been good deinkable at least for production size printers. It was just the old slow SOHO printers which, at low speeds, literally ironed the toner resin into the fiber network, attaching pigment particles firmly to the fibers from which they were difficult to remove. This has improved dramatically with the speed of the printers. And the output of today’s dry toner production printers is mostly even better deinkable than offset newspapers.

    INGEDE has always seeked the cooperation of all members of the paper chain. That is our business. Now there finally is an intense cooperation between INGEDE and DPDA to improve understanding and to find solutions. The inkjet printer industry wakes up, but it had to be woken up. Otherwise still nobody in this industry would care about recyclability of the prints at all. Regrettably, the pejorative conclusion of the quote still overlooks this fact.

    Axel Fischer

  2. Ralf Schlözer

    Seldom does one of the white papers we produce create so much controversy. It seems that it is picking up on important issues (however we also should not forget that deinkability is one aspect of many regarding the sustainability of print).
    We spoke to many people and studied several resources before writing the paper and we learned that there are many opinions and viewpoints to that issue. For some it might feel like bias when we try to re-conciliate the arguments and put them into an overall market picture. It is also important to differentiate on what is state of technology now and where markets and technologies will move to. This week had a good call with members of the DPDA and are convinced that they are on a good way to tackle the deinking problems.
    At InfoTrends we are not tied to any vendor, technology or industry association, apart from that we want to see the printing industry thrive and prepare for future challenges. This is what finally keeps us all in business.

  3. Andrew Tribute

    I would like to confirm what Ralf says. I also find the claim that we showed bias to be insulting and Mr Fischer has failed to provide any evidence of his claim. I also dispute his claim that the information in the paper is easily found elsewhere. That is totally wrong and I would suggest people look at the Ingede web site to see how little information they provide on the subject.

    There is no doubt that the digital printer suppliers see their responsibility in being environmentally clean and they are all working to enhance their position in deinking and recycling. I would suggest that Ingede put their efforts in trying to convert the world’s newspaper printers that use flexo to get their act in order. The ones I have spoken to do not seem to think they have a problem.

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