The Misinformation Highway

“The printing industry is the single largest air polluter and the third-largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world after automobiles and steel manufacturing,” stated Re-nourish Founder and University of Illinois Design Professor Eric Benson. “On a typical day, [printers] use trillions of gallons of water that must be treated for its toxic chemical content and released back into our waterways.”

Meanwhile, adhesives, bindings, and foils used in printing and packaging can render the final product un-recyclable, virtually guaranteeing that it will end up in a landfill. There, petroleum-based inks can cause lasting damage to the environment, leaching volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause cancer and birth defects into the ground, contaminating soil, groundwater, and, upon evaporation, the air.”

Did I get your attention? 

I recently found this verbiage on the site of a printing company in California using this as a tool to solicit “green printing.”   That this type of information is being used to sell “green” printing is criminal — but that’s another story for another time.   I spoke to Gary Jones, Director of Environmental, Health and Safety Affairs with Printing Industries of America regarding this information, which I felt was totally incorrect.  Gary was familiar with Mr. Benson’s quote, which really dealt with the paper industry – and the data was woefully out of date, and he had asked Mr. Benson to update his information on his website.  When you visit Re-nourish, you won’t find that type of information — although you can see that Mr. Benson is promoting green/sustainable design.

Yet, as with much of the Internet, this “information” continues to reside out there and misinform the misinformed.

On a similar note, I heard a radio quote the other day from the Sierra Club about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ’s) permit approval of a Central Texas coal burning power plant.  The Sierra Club’s position was that the permit should never have been approved; regardless that the power plant met all the federal and state regulations for permitting.  Here’s what annoyed me. During the radio interview the Sierra Club spokesperson lambasted the decision then made this statement, “The TCEQ over the past ten years has issued 86,000 permits which continues to make our state the top polluter in the United States.”

First, during that period of time, Texas was probably the fastest growing state in the United States and second, these permits are only issued if the applicant is willing to undergo the stringent process of meeting the federal andstate regulations regarding pollution control.  If one was to believe the Sierra Club, the state was willy-nilly letting anyone and everyone pollute. Third, and last, those permits could have been for a simple modification to a piece of equipment, or a permit for a dry cleaner, printer, auto body shop, municipal water district, etc., etc.  But the implication in that radio news article, to the vast majority of the radio-listening public, is that there are 86,000 facilities in the state similar to a coal-burning West Texas power plant. 

Now, back to my point.  Our industry is rapidly becoming marginalized because of half-truths and mis-information aimed at print. We are major polluters.  The process is hazardous because we use toxic chemicals.  We kill trees and fill up landfills with toxic leaching chemicals, etc.

It’s important that everyone working in our industry become informed and realize that we have to constantly educate print users/buyers of the truths. And we can’t sugar-coat or green wash.  Yes, we do use chemicals, but over the past 20 years they have become much, much safer.  VOC emissions are much lower than the past because of process changes and many companies are printing alcohol free. We no longer (thanks to CTP technology) use film chemistry and our platemaking chemistry is much less hazardous.  WE RECYCLE! And 57% of paper is presently being recycled in the United States.

Printing Industries of America is in the process of developing tools which can be used by its members to combat many of these half truths.  Mike Makin, President and CEO of Printing Industries of America recently took a California Congressman to task because that individual was not going to send out Christmas cards in order “to make her contribution to the environment.”   If would like a copy of Mike’s letter — chockfull of good information why print has value, please let me know.

So, become informed and understand that every time someone sees or hears something negative about print, a decision is being made to NOT use print.  Print is NOT dead. Print is viable. Print leaves a lasting impression. Spread the word.


One thought on “The Misinformation Highway

  1. Joe, Instead of asking the reader to contact you for a copy of Mike’s letter on why print has value, it would probable be better to have a link to it.
    Please send me a copy of Mike’s letter.
    Happy belated Birthday. What day was it?
    Merry Christmas, Jim

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