Minimizing our impact on the environment is a responsibility we should all take seriously. Production of eco-friendly, sustainable print and graphics is part of this.
Our production technology has been chosen based on its environmental credentials. Most of our printers use water-based ink which give us a great platform to start from. Thankfully eco-friendly printing products are being developed and are more available. This means the cost to produce environmentally friendly graphics is also getting cheaper. It used to be a prohibitive exercise, but thankfully, as the world wises up to the importance of a more sustainable way of living, possibilities for greener materials are becoming easier to source and use.
The list below covers some of our practices and a sample products to help get you thinking. If you have any questions or a project you would like to discuss with us, get in touch. We'd be happy to make an environmentally happy set of graphics for you.
Lastly, if there's a product you're thinking of which isn't mentioned please ask us about it. It's either one we know about and can offer you already, or it's something we'd like to hear about to develop with our suppliers. This is an ongoing, developing part of the large format and display industry, and one we can all contribute to.
It is company policy to use PVC-free vinyl for producing decals whenever possible. This means, if the colour is available in the PVC-free range, we will use it to produce your work – at no extra cost.
Why? Because vinyl is one of the biggest contributors we have as a company, and as an industry, to environmental damage. We produce a heck of a lot of vinyl each week which is all disposed of in landfill or incineration. By offering a green alternative we are lessening our, and your, impact on the environment.
PVC-free vinyl is manufactured without any chlorine or plasticizers, so no chlorine gases are released when the film is incinerated. It also comes with a water-based semi-permanent adhesive.
Most of our printer machinery uses latex inks, which is made up of 60% water, making it a greener option than solvent-based ink.
Whereas solvent penetrates into the media, latex sits on top and doesn’t react in the same way, which is better for recyclability. Latex is also completely biodegradable, and happens even sooner when exposed to sunlight. Given the right conditions, latex can biodegrade at about the same rate as a leaf of a tree – that is, around six months.
A further benefit of latex ink over solvent is that it doesn’t emit hazardous VOCs (Volatile
Organic Compounds) – gases or odours what are harmful to the environment. This means latex printing can be performed without any form of ventilation or air extraction and are safer for The Graphical Tree team to produce.
Latex inks are also certified by UL Ecologo and UL Greenguard Gold.
We have a range of fully recyclable board materials. Here are a few we use on a regular basis. We're always looking to add to this list too.
While this wood-based product is made from sawdust and, if it is certified, sustainably grown wood, it uses glue to bond its composite pieces. And even though the amount of glue has decreased over the years, meaning it is effectively low formaldehyde, it's still non-recyclable. It is reusable though. It’s also possible to use an MDF product called Medite Ecologique with a zero formaldehyde glue called MDI. The benefits of MDI glue are that you need much less of it to bond a board together, 3-5% as opposed to 10-15% for formaldehyde-based glue boards. Secondly, MDI is inert, which means that it does not let off gas and VOC’s.
Falconboard & Dufaylite
Both these lightweight products are highly sustainable and made from up to 95% recycled card and paper material. So while they aren't easily re-usable, they 100% recyclable – just place with your general recycling paper waste. They're great for large p.o.s. such as display boards and smaller items like boxes and packaging.
Did you know that while foamex is made of plastic, it's fully recyclable? It's also re-usable. So you could either send it back to us to re-purpose or, at the very least, put it in your recycling for collection and safe disposal. Foamex is fire-rated and suitable for indoor and outdoor use, making it a hugely popular and widely used substrate. It also comes in different thicknesses. So have a think when ordering for whether you really need the thickest material, or in fact, you could use a thinner board, saving plastic use even before recycling.
Used primarily outdoors, i-Bond is an aluminum composite sheet with a 0.3mm aluminum skin, which makes it fully recyclable. It's perfect for a hoarding which needs to be hard wearing. As it's such a strong material there's no reason why we couldn't actually re-use it the future too.
While good old fashioned card is underused, partly due to its durability, it is a sound eco-friendly option. In the right environment, and for the right job, card is a perfect substrate to use for display point of sale – think smaller in size pieces or p.o.s. which is being fixed to a flat supporting surface like a wall.
We have an evolving range of PVC-free materials which can be printed on suitable for many applications.
Not only does this give you a beautiful matte surface, it's also not reflective, like coated gloss or satin papers. If you're producing presentations or art, think of using an uncoated matte paper stock to show off your words and work effectively. We can print directly to the paper using water-based latex ink which helps to make this a highly recyclable product.
If you want to cover a wall, we have PVC free, FSC® certified and fire-rated products to achieve this in an environmentally friendly fashion. The material is premium non-woven wallpaper with a homogenous surface suitable for our latex waterbased inks.
Our Uxbridge production site has on-site solar power which accounts for a good percentage of our energy use, and over both production locations, we contract a sustainable energy provider. Uxbridge also uses LED lighting throughout. We're planning for our Central London W1 production site to follow suit.