Below is a list of frequently asked questions which highlight the environmental initiatives the company has undertaken.

Does being 'eco' mean you print on recycled papers?

Yes, we certainly encourage our customers to be aware of the environmental paper stocks available to them, but that is only part of what we do. We look at our whole design and production process to make sure we have minimal impact on the environment. This means we have implemented an environmental management system which has been certified to ISO14001 standards.

Are recycled papers more expensive?

No. With the increased demand for recycled papers and with the growing awareness from paper mills of the economic benefit to be gained from recycling, the cost is the same as equivalent virgin papers.

What are the benefits of using recycled paper?

One tonne of paper used for recycling saves:

  • approx 7 mature trees
  • 30,000 to 60,000 litres of water
  • 40% of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp
  • 95% of the air pollution generated in making paper from virgin wood pulp 4 cubic metres of landfill

Do recycled papers print as well? Are they of lesser quality?

Recycled papers vary in quality and usability, just as virgin wood pulp papers do. Often the perceived problem in a paper's quality is because the wrong paper has been chosen for the type of job the customer is wanting.

Broadly speaking papers can be split into two groups: coated and uncoated.

Coated papers – so named because of the clay coating applied in their manufacture – can be matt or gloss and the ink appears more vibrant on these types of paper. This is because the ink sits on the surface of the paper and hence the colour reproduction is not compromised by the ink absorbing into the paper stock. Because there is less absorbency it also means you can print finer details on this type of stock. Coated papers are graded from A1+ (Coffee table art books) through to A3 (direct mail letter box drops). Most printing is on A2 or A2+ graded stock. There is a chlorine-free 50% recycled stock that is of A1+ quality (Encore). One of our house stocks is 55% recycled chlorine-free and is rated A2+. Another is made from 100% post-consumer waste and is rated A2.

Uncoated papers are grouped in bonds (for photocopiers), offsets (for printers) and specialties (used for letterhead, business cards etc). These types of paper do not have the clay coating so ink is absorbed into the stock more than with coated papers. However, these papers are better suited to office technology (laser compatible) and have a tactile feel to them. Colour appears flatter and can sometimes be much darker than a customer expects. However, there is a trend these days to print colour on these types of stocks for the unique look and feel that these papers can give to the finished product.

There are environmentally friendly stocks right across the grades that can match the quality of the virgin stocks. In some circumstances you may need to compromise the percentage of recycled material in the paper for very high-end projects.

What is mill broke?

Mill broke is offcuts, waste paper, and fibres gathered in the production process of making paper. This material has not even left the paper mill and should not really be included in any measures of the recycled content of a paper.

What does chlorine-free paper mean and what is the difference between totally chlorine-free (TCF) and elemental chlorine-free (ECF)?

Traditionally chlorine gas has been used to bleach paper. This chlorine gas causes unwanted harmful bi-products known as dioxins. Hence there has been a move away from the use of chlorine gas in the bleaching process. Papers to look for are elemental chlorine-free (ECF) and totally chlorine-free (TCF). ECF papers replace chlorine gas with other less toxic chlorine compounds. This significantly reduces the amount of dioxins. TCF papers have completely replaced all chlorine compounds in the bleaching process. Some papers these days make mention of an AOX rating. Basically this is a measure of the 'nasties' formed in the bleaching process. Many regulators around the world consider an AOX level of anywhere between 1.0 and 1.5 kg per tonne of pulp to be produced to be safe for the environment. Chlorine gas bleached stocks produce approx 3.5kg per tonne of pulp. ECF pulp yields about 0.3kg to 0.5kg per tonne of pulp. TCF pulp yields approx 0.1kg which is virtually undetectable.

Does wood-free paper mean that it is not made from trees?

No, it does not. Paper advertised as being wood-free is actually referring to the way the wood fibres have been pulped. Mechanically pulped wood doesn't completely get all the fibres smoothed out and this paper has a more woody feel to it. This type of pulp is used in newspapers and some magazines. Chemically pulped wood gets out all the woody elements and the fibres are smoother and stronger and brighter. Hence wood-free means chemically pulped wood which is arguably more damaging to the environment than the alternative mechanical pulping. So don't be fooled into thinking wood-free means tree-free and is environmentally sound.

Are there alternative fibres which can be used to make paper?

There are tree-free paper stocks which are also called alternative fibre stocks. A well known example of this stock is Harvest, which is made from bagasse, the waste fibres of sugar cane.

Do you use vegetable oil based inks?

Yes, we do use vegetable oil based inks. They are made with soya bean oil. Petroleum oil inks decompose in light to form highly reactive compounds capable of destroying the ozone layer. These compounds are known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. VOCs are virtually non-existent in vegetable oil based inks.

What does alcohol-free mean in relation to printing and why is alcohol damaging to the environment?

Alcohol in printing is used to make water wetter. This means that the water is smoother and more fluid and spreads across the surface of the plate evenly. Printing plates have an image area that attracts oil (ink) and a non-image area that attracts water. Getting the balance right between water and ink is half the battle of getting good quality print. Most printers use alcohol to help them with this and if a printer is having problems in this area they will often increase the level of the alcohol to get over the problem and continue printing. However, the solvents in alcohol are incredibly damaging on the environment and the operators. You only need to take the lid off a permanent marker and breathe in the fumes to understand the damage that continual exposure to alcohol vapour can cause. ecoDesign ecoPrint uses an alternative dampening solution that allows us to run alcohol-free. We have been running our presses alcohol-free since the year 2000.

What cleaning products do you use and are they environmentally friendly?

All our cleaning products are the most environmentally friendly we have been able to find. The blanket and roller wash is called Envirosolve and contains only non-photochemically reactive solvent. It does not contain aromatics, glycol ethers, alcohol, ketones or chlorinated solvents. The plate cleaner is called BIO Plate Cleaner which contains citrus and non-photochemically reactive petroleum spirit.

Do you have a waste water permit?

Yes, we do have a waste water permit issued by Sydney Water.

What do you do with your waste water?

All our waste water goes through a dilution tank before leaving the premises. This dilution tank ensures that we only dispose of water which is free of heavy solids and impurities.

How do you reduce your water usage?

ecoDesign ecoPrint's water usage is less than you probably use at home. For example, our 4 colour 28 inch press has a 30 litre water tank capacity which is changed once a week. The water used on the press is re-circulated all the time i.e. the water operates in a closed-loop system. During the week we may top up the tank once or twice with an additional 10 litres so total usage of water is a maximum of 40 to 50 litres per week.

To put this in perspective:

  • a single toilet flush – up to 18 litres
  • showering – 5.7 to 18.9 litres per minute
  • bathtub – 115 to 190 litres (full bath)
  • washing machine – 170 to 190 litres per cycle
  • dripping tap (very slight drip) – 30 litres per day

How do you reduce your power usage?

Equipment is turned off when not in use. Equipment is maintained in accordance with a strict maintenance schedule to ensure optimum running of the presses and other equipment. We are currently waiting for conversion of our power supply to green power.

Value of paper & print - Fast Facts