Emphasising the positives of print and paper

14 October, 2013

Printers coming under pressure from those who mistakenly think printing is environmentally unsound should turn to the tools provided by PrintNZ and the New Zealand Paper Forum to educate customers about the “green” and sustainable merits of print, writes Dave MacIntyre.

The need for the eyes of print buyers and the general public to be opened has been shown in a couple of recent examples where printers have come under pressure from clients, says PrintNZ General Manager Ruth Cobb.

“Clients are asking why they should still continue with a printed hard copy of a job rather than an electronic version. It is obvious that these clients do not know the facts about the printing industry and need to be reminded of our credentials.

“The printers have to take our case to the customer, and change negative perceptions.

“We have an extremely strong case to put. We have a sustainable industry. Our products come from renewable resources and our carbon footprint is exceptional.

“In the last 20 years the print industry has reduced its carbon footprint substantially through changes such as the use of vegetable inks; the development of computer to plate (CtP) technology; reduced usage of solvents; reduced waste; and reduced the exposure to dioxins.

“Print and paper is a choice you can feel good about.”

Ruth says it is a case of ‘saying it out loud’- giving printers and others in the industry the tools to counter the negative arguments that are mistakenly touted. 

“We have the choice -- we can sit back and watch quietly, allowing misconceptions and untruths about our industry to persist or work as one to highlight the important and vital role that print plays in our everyday lives.

“One of PrintNZ’s key goals is to promote the print industry and one way we can do this is by pointing printers in the direction of the facts that will help them convince customers and the general public that ‘print is good’.”

Print: Part of Life Campaign

A rich source of information is the Print: Part of Life Campaign that focuses on the role that print plays in everyday life.

Launched in 2010, the campaign uses the “multiplier” effect of having Print Champions throughout industry endorse printed products as an effective means of communication to the general public. 

The website www.partoflife.co.nz has a wealth of information available for the industry to download and make use of.

The campaign has received nationwide media coverage including advertisements run across many of the major newspapers and with Nevil Gibson of the National Business Review writing: “The print industry is under attack from environmentalists and, ironically, from a paper-hungry bureaucracy, the Ministry for the Environment.

“Consumers have bought into it and the print industry has a large image problem as a result. Industry research has found consumers like a lot about printed products.

"Yet these same people, who prefer to store their emails in the computer and read online, are blissfully unaware of the large environmental impact of the electricity needed to run the Internet and its large websites such as Google or Facebook.”

The Paper Story

A second rich source of information is the Paper Stewardship Scheme launched by The New Zealand Paper Forum to promote paper’s sound credentials as a sustainable product and responsible communications choice.

This introduced the concept of stewardship throughout the product lifecycle and set voluntary standards aimed at minimising the impact of paper on the environment and promoting the benefits of using paper as a renewable resource.

The Paper Stewardship Scheme has four main targets:

  1. Measure and benchmark paper recovery rates
  2. Give a best practice guide on waste minimisation and recycling
  3. Promote an education strategy for buyers and consumers of paper products
  4. Promote informed debate on issues such as paper waste versus e-waste (the waste created by products such as cell phones, computers and old inkjet printers, which are rarely recycled and end up in landfills).

New Zealand’s recovery and recycling of paper is at world’s best-practice levels with nearly 70% of all paper product in New Zealand recovered for recycling. 

No native trees are used to make paper or paper-related products in New Zealand. Paper here is made predominantly from radiata pine and eucalyptus species, which have been specifically grown for harvest.

If we didn’t use sawmill residue to make our newsprint, it would be exported to another paper maker, burned or left to rot. In fact only 11% of the wood extracted from the world’s forests goes into the paper industry.

The stewardship scheme addresses a noted lack of recognition for the environmental strides made by the industry. Phillip Lawrence, Director of EcoLogical Strategies Pty Ltd in Sydney and an acknowledged expert in industry “green” achievements, comments:

“If anyone were to describe an industry that would fit the perfect environmental model it would be along the lines of: an industry based on naturally-renewable resources, which draws the majority of its energy requirements from carbon-neutral sources, and results in products that are reusable and easily recycled.

“There is probably only one industry that satisfies all the criteria of the perfect everyday product for the environment — paper.”

Copies of The Paper Story can be obtained by emailing ruth.cobb@printnz.co.nz

Two Sides

Two Sides is a global initiative with a  common goal to promote the responsible production and use of print and paper, and dispel common environmental misconceptions by providing users with verifiable information on why print and paper is an attractive, practical and sustainable communications medium. 

Print and paper have been the preferred communication medium for over 2000 years. Two Sides seeks to ensure that, by fostering a better understanding of our industry's environmental credentials, through its myriad of uses from commercial applications to the basis of learning and creativity, print and paper remains the essential communication medium of choice.

Its website www.twosides.info hosts a range of resources for companies to access and challenges the “greenwashing” that is used by businesses.

In a UK survey conducted by Two Sides in November 2010, 43% of banks, 70% of utilities companies and 30% of telecoms were making unsubstantiated ‘green’, ‘e-billing is better for the environment’, claims. On being challenged by Two Sides, 82% of these greenwash messages were removed or amended.

These challenges are made on a global basis and PrintNZ is working towards an alliance with the Two Sides campaign.

Ruth Cobb says it is important too that industry members educate themselves about the true comparisons of the environmental credentials of print and paper with those of online (including PCs, monitors, telecoms, data centres, web servers, etc), which many think, wrongly, are better for the environment.

The key questions to compare print and online are — is it renewable?; can it be reused or recycled?; and what are the emissions?

These need to be answered for all stages of the process not just the in-use part and rather than asking which is better, paper or electronic communication, we should use this life cycle thinking to figure out which combination of the two has the least impact on the environment while best meeting social and economic needs.