How Sustainability is Driving Paper Innovation in the UK Print Industry


Written By Allen King

I purchased my first machine back in 1982 and started protecting portfolio books for photographers. 30 years later, I’m proud to say Express Encapsulating is the largest encapsulating business in the UK, with the aim of protecting the nation’s print from damage, so print can look better, for longer, no matter where it ends up.

Published On April 27, 2023

Businesses throughout the UK are undergoing a number of interesting changes in recent years – this is due to a number of diverse factors. One major change in the market is the increased prominence of sustainability, which more companies are beginning to embrace as a tenet of their brand identity. This is becoming commonplace in almost every sector, with the UK print industry, in particular, working to minimise its effect on the planet. In this article, we look at the many ways that paper has developed in response to the growing sustainability trend.

The shift towards sustainable printing options

Commercial printers understand the impacts that paper-centric businesses could have on the environment and are continuously working to mitigate these issues. As companies across nearly every industry use the UK print sector, the changes they make may have a significant knock-on effect. There are several market forces that can motivate these decisions – including a general desire to be eco-friendly. The people behind these organisations often have a real passion for the environment, and aim to incorporate this into their business strategy as a way of ushering in effective long-term changes.

Another significant factor is consumer demands – it’s only natural for this sector to continue providing what its users are asking for. People across and beyond the UK are becoming more aware of green issues every day and are searching for ways to make a tangible difference. Switching to eco-friendly paper is one approach they may take; it’s paramount that suppliers and services try to accommodate this. Print companies have a responsibility to adapt their approach, which also allows them to help other companies develop their own green initiatives.

The UK government is also taking the climate crisis seriously and is implementing carbon and general eco goals for industries to follow whenever possible. For example, the country intends to reach net-zero carbon by 2050; this will only happen if companies also work towards this target. There are also various government incentives for businesses which commit to sustainability, specifically via green funding. This includes grants and loans that companies can apply for from national or local bodies – they use this money to devise eco-friendly alternatives to their service.

Green options for the print industry

There are a number of options which print and paper-based companies could investigate in order to keep pace with their competitors and make a difference. Understanding these innovations and techniques could help you build a coherent green strategy. The available options include:

Carbon offsetting

Some companies decide to offset their own use of carbon by making a positive contribution. For example, they could partner with the Woodland Trust and plant trees that will absorb carbon from the atmosphere while also releasing high amounts of oxygen back into it.

Sustainable inks

Sustainable or ‘green’ inks use algae or soy-based solutions to limit the emissions they cause. Many companies already use part-soy ink, but this might still include petroleum. Businesses that use printing ink must make sure that their approach is as sustainable as possible.

Energy-efficient printers

Industrial printers of all kinds produce a lot of heat and other emissions over the course of an average working day, while also using high volumes of electricity. Energy-efficient printers reduce these emissions and can even limit the company’s expenses in the process.

Recyclable print material

Recycling is a staple of almost every company’s green initiative; this can extend to print materials. Eco-friendly paper reduces landfill waste, and it’s possible to re-use this up to five times. This paper also provides the same level of performance as traditional options.

FSC paper

Along similar lines, a business may decide to use Forest Stewardship Council paper. The FSC is an international organisation that certifies sustainably-sourced paper using 10 separate criteria. Many organisations select this over recycled paper – though FSC options are often also recyclable.

Eco-friendly options for robust printing

Some prints require an additional layer of durability, for one reason or another. They could be situated outside, or customers and staff may handle them frequently throughout the workday. Many people believe sustainable printing leads to lower-quality products – potentially due to the use of recycled paper or different machines to produce the prints. However, innovations in printing technology have made this disparity a thing of the past. A key consideration for many organisations and customers is lamination. This technique adequately protects any print but uses unsustainable plastic to achieve this.

Biodegradable lamination is a particularly new development that the printing industry can use to achieve these same effects without plastic. This adds a transparent and effective layer of protection to documents but is not waterproof in the same way as conventional laminate. These options can use cellulose, polylactic acid, or could even modify existing plastics to make them biodegradable. Whilst these laminates aren’t waterproof, they may still offer enough durability to sustain wear and tear from regular indoor use. However, biodegradable options are often more expensive to produce and purchase.

Recycled or sustainable FSC paper can still be robust enough for many situations; the latter in particular always has the same strength as conventional paper. There are also specific waterproof sustainable paper products on the market – in addition, these are usually both synthetic and recyclable. This could be perfect for bespoke and industry-specific prints, including plant labels, restaurant menus, race numbers, and more; the applications are almost unlimited. When compiling a strong green strategy, you need to make sure your prints can survive in an impressive range of situations.

Eco-friendly, indestructible printing paper

UK printing agencies must develop comprehensive and sustainable services to guarantee that they can remain competitive and can accommodate the changing needs of their customers. Ironleaf could be exactly what your company is looking for – this is a synthetic waterproof paper with varying levels of thickness. This is perfect for robust printing; it’s also tearproof, easy to clean, and wholly recyclable. Express Encapsulation and Lamination has been operating for over 30 years, allowing us to understand exactly what small and medium printing firms need from their paper. To learn more about Ironleaf, visit our helpful guide.

You may also like…

How To Fix 6 Common Problems With Laminating Film

How To Fix 6 Common Problems With Laminating Film

Don't want to read the full guide? Download the pdf. Laminating print can be difficult with many machine variables to consider. With over 30 years creating beautiful film-sealed print, we know the most common issues to look out for and how to correct them. In this...

How To Fix 7 Common Problems With Encapsulating Film

How To Fix 7 Common Problems With Encapsulating Film

Don't want to read the full guide? Download the pdf. Creating film sealed print using encapsulation can be fraught with difficulties. There are many variables to consider and it can often be any number of things or a combination of different things that is causing...