Often many months in the planning, most print ends up as waste within two weeks of reaching its audience. Yet, during the planning stages, relatively little effort is spent understanding what happens to a piece of print at the end of its life. So we took a quick look at lots of printed items from across households and industry, and tried to find out what might happen to them.
Metal foils and inks, laminates, glitter, varnishes, plastic substrates, synthetic fabrics, shrink-wrap, poly bags, tapes, glues…according to the people we spoke to, there is a long list of everyday elements used in the print industry that cause unexpected problems. Recycling companies find it hard to deal with mixed materials and only in the best-case scenarios are the elements properly separated for recycling. A lot of items that are not cost effective to separate will end up either as ‘refuse derived fuel’ – burned for energy – or in landfill, producing hazardous by-products. A lot of print just ends up as litter, whether careless or deliberate.
No-one sets out to produce pollution, but those involved in creating it have a responsibility to end it.
Here at Harler we are working on initiatives to help the industry take control of this problem, so we’d like to hear from you. What good work is being done by packaging technologists to improve recyclability? How are suppliers helping clients be more responsible? How are marketers measuring the social and environmental ROI of their campaigns? How is the recycling and waste industry working with those upstream?