Category Archives: Green Printing

Paper or Plastic?

Baby-Globe from:

Baby-Globe from:

One of the “most overused marketing phrases” of 2009 was “green”, according to several advertising and marketing sources.  It seemed like everywhere you turned, everything was GREEN!  Don’t expect this bragging war to be over anytime soon.  The ‘swagger’ wars have just begun – each product industry claims why what they have is better than the next guy.  There are even battles to fight inside the industry, such as which plastic product is better than another plastic product.  This makes sense though, since over 80% of consumers expect their product to be affiliated with sustainable material in efforts to be environmentally friendly.  So if you’re not already looking into eco-friendly solutions, now is a good time to investigate alternatives!

Recently, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) issued new rules that may go into effect very soon. These new rules would stipulate which chemical ingredients in products that may pose a health or environmental concern. The DTSC could potentially require companies to submit specific product details for review, including data on safety and sustainability for recycling. The DTSC seems to be keeping the lines of communication open during this review process, offering ‘alternatives assessments’, which is commendable!

Plastics have gotten a lot of heat. Recently, Kellogg’s recalled 28 types of cereal which resulted in 1.7 million instances of off-flavoured cereal. That is sure to wake you up in the morning! (“Kellogg said a “slightly elevated” level of a substance commonly present at very low levels in the FDA-approved waxy resins in packaging materials was responsible for the off-flavours and odours in four types of its breakfast snacks.”).

From Kellogg’s recalls to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) crack-down, we are sure to have more ‘unrest’ with the plastics industry. BUT, let’s compare that with the paper industry.

There are different production methods used in both the printing industry and the polypropylene industry. Each industry COULD make a change and ethically and responsibility produce goods. For instance, in the printing industry there is an alternative way to produce paper or labels which is environmentally desirable; there are sustainably managed forests which essentially “recycle” by re-pulping the old paper in order to manufacture new paper. As we know, companies do not always opt for the most eco-friendly.

Paper production involves a large amount of water, and makes use of toxic chemicals. Thus, the chemicals that mills located on waterways use contaminate the water. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the paper industry releases about 212 million tons of hazardous substances into the air and water. “These amounts are comparable to the U.S. primary metal industry — and are ranked as the third largest user of industrial water.” ( , 2010). Though most paper mills have attempted to become more eco-conscious by generating the power from wood wastes for the manufacturing process, “U.S. government figures show that pulp and paper manufacturers are the fourth largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases”. (

Take a look at these paper-recycling facts:

• Paper bags generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags
• Paper bags use 84 times as much energy to recycle compared to a plastic bag

Even if you recycle, the outcome is still questionable. Unlike paper, the most harmful aspect of polypropylene (plastic) is not the production, but rests on the consumers’ responsibility to recycle. Also, because of the durable nature of plastics, they are able to withstand high temperatures or other environmental conditions. There are more uses for polypropylene, and on average it has a lifespan of 12 years. ( ). I would like to see a paper bag last that long!

Here is a helpful link which shows how well both paper and plastic are recycles: . According to this, Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! [BUT] most of them are thrown away!

As far as polypropylene labels, there are safe ways to print on plastic labels. For instance, the process that Vibrant Graphics use to produce polypropylene labels reduces the amount of scrap (we have less than 3 %!). It takes less material to calibrate our press and our process is geared towards shorter runs which encourages the use of less overall material. We also recycle the little waste that we do produce in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Finally, our inks do not contain any hazardous chemicals and are water-based.

For this round, I’m going to say that plastics kicked paper out of the arena. Now, the question is, which plastics’ packaging solution is best?


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Filed under alternative packaging, eco-friendly, Green Printing, In-Mold Labeling, Packaging, sustainable, Vibrant Graphics

Reminder: There Are Safe Decorating Methods Out There

With the recent news surrounding McDonald’s move to recall all of their Shrek themed glassware (this after an anonymous tip that the paint on the glasses contained cadmium), consumers have the right to be worried about what’s in many other decorated products. Cadmium is a chemical that can become a carcinogen at high levels, causing serious health problems including kidney and bone damage. The paint used to decorate the glasses is very different from the inks that Vibrant Graphics uses for the in-mold labeling printing process. Our HP certified inks are safe for indirect food contact, and they meet  both Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act 21 U.S.C. 201  and the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act 2008 requirements, as well as being free from lead, hazardous air pollutants or phthalates. Our inks are eco-friendly, causing no direct threat to the environment, and HP was ranked #1 out of 500 companies in Newsweek’s 2009 Green Ratings.  The films and protective coatings that we use do not contain any hazardous substances, as verified by material safety data sheets and regulatory standards. Overall, our procedures are very consumer friendly, and modern techniques for in-mold labeling and decorating are extremely safe. At Vibrant Graphics, we’ll continue to work to cement trust with our customers and our consumers, and we want you to remember that we will never compromise safety for sales.

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In-Mold Labeling and Digital Printing Technology – Two Technologies Combine to Give You Awesome Results

In-mold labeling is cool and different – imagine fusing the label into the actual product, making the two become one, so you have a hard time telling where the product starts and the label ends. (For more on what in-mold labeling involves, be sure to read our other white paper).

Digital printing is cool and different – so cool that it’s projected in many circles to generate over one billion dollars a year in revenue. It’s printing without plates, optimized for smaller, on-demand runs, and it easily handles personalization of each and every piece.

Both technologies are pretty killer by themselves, but combining them is where you truly start to get breathtaking results. And if you’re involved in the manufacturing or consumer goods world in any way, digitally printed in-mold labels should really be a head turner. Why?

The Personalized “No Label Look” – It’s hard to resist.

We have a customer who orders personalized drinkware – lots and lots of it – for various organizations. Each time our customer places an order, there are as many as twenty different label runs on the same ticket, with each run featuring a different picture and information for the specific organization. You can do that in traditional printing, but plate costs would become astronomical for all of these different personalized pieces, and it wouldn’t be cost-effective to order different labels in groups. Digital printing operates from a database, not plates, so it can easily handle multiple sku’s in a single run – because who really wants all of their labels to be the same? And if you’re looking to make your product stand out, traditional labels that you’d find at most digital printers are frankly sort of boring – everyone can print those. In-mold labels, on the other hand, are unique, aren’t easily replicated, and provide a truly eye-catching experience, making any plastic product more desirable. It’s the “no label” look, and it’s catching on in a big way.

Longer-lasting brilliant graphics. Just what your product needed.

As digital printing gets more advanced, the quality of the graphics get better and better. Forget photo-quality…our graphics are so good that they seem to jump off the page and come to life. A recent Nielson/Bases study showed that more consumers gain information about products they intend to purchase from product packaging than from TV ads. If that’s the case, making a good first impression with your packaging is essential, and there’s no better way to make your message pop than by using digital printing. The beauty of in-mold labeling is that it is extremely functional and durable, because what’s the good of a great looking label if it’s easily destroyed? In-mold labels are much harder to scratch or deface, and much more fade resistant than traditional labels, because they’re built into the wall of the product. They can’t be removed from the product, so your message is in front of the customer at all times. Combining the best of both technologies takes your labels to a whole new level of functionality, and it might just take your sales to a new level too.

Green. Greener. Great.

Let’s face it, we don’t see manufacturers as a green segment of the population. Many people hear the word and imagine towering smokestacks choking the oxygen out of our atmosphere and tons of energy wasted from complex, high octane processes. The printing industry typically gets a bad rap because it’s based around the production of paper, which is often obtained through deforestation and not often recycled for further use. And traditional printers do have a problem with generating excessive waste, which occurs during the lengthy set-up process necessary for each run. Digital printing doesn’t create that waste, because set-up is as simple as pulling a file from the database, there’s no mess that occurs with creating plates, and it doesn’t take much material to calibrate the press. Unlike traditional pressure-sensitive paper labels, in-mold labeling doesn’t require adhesives, or paper at all – most of these labels are made out of plastic. And our labels are produced on super thin materials, helping us keep our material inventory and overall waste low. Once the label has been fused into the product, the two can be recycled together, making it easier to keep the planet clean.

Digital printing and in-mold labeling have both been around for some time in their respective industries, but few printers have yet to harness the power of both technologies and create an entirely new product. We’re one of them, and our technology recently won an innovation award in the city of Milwaukee. If your products involve plastics of any kind, and you’re looking for a better way to brand what you’re selling, take a look at digitally printed in-mold labels. It’s not traditional, but different stands out every time, and daring to be different just might give you an edge in the market.

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It’s Not So Hard Being Green: Why Vibrant’s Uniquely Eco-friendly

Here’s a post that our pre-press specialist, Alex, supplied for our most recent newsletter. We like it enough to post it again here. Enjoy!

What does Vibrant Graphics have in common with Kermit the Frog?  No, it’s not the ambition to move to Hollywood and become a famous actor or the overly   needy girlfriend.  We’re both GREEN!  Vibrant has found a way to not only help the environment by being green, but also help our customers.

Traditional printing can take hours to set-up a press and several hundred feet of material.  Vibrant’s digital solution eliminates that waste. The ability to produce short runs of product with minimal set-up means we waste less time and material…which means the cost can go down.

Even the materials we print on are an earth-friendly cost saver. We print our labels on thin, unsupported Polypropylene(PP) film.  Since there is no adhesive and no liner, we have instantly reduced our carbon footprint.  Once again, this not only reduces material consumption, but also material cost – and PP is also easily recycled, so the little waste we create is properly converted.

The inks used in digital printing may look like CMYK, but they are really all “green.”  Since the inks are polymer based and travel in an oil vehicle, there are no messy solvent wastes.  All that is left behind is non-toxic toner oil which can be disposed of by facilities with the proper waste stream abilities.  Not even soy inks can say that. So, I guess it really is easy being green.  Sorry Kermit.

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