SUWAS – Sustainable Waste Management Strategy for Green Printing Industry Business

Duration: 36 months
Project ID: Förderkennzeichen 033E002

Leader and partners

Funding organisations

Aim of the project

Establishment of environmental & socio-economic welfare in the EU through successful adaptation of recycling technology in the printing industry.

Project description

The flexographic/gravure printing industry is responsible for a significant part of waste generation within European countries (mainly Germany, France, and Italy). The EU generates more than 61,000 tons of ink-paste waste. Each plant has the task to process 1,200 tons annually, which means that 50 plants would be needed to cover the amount of waste produced in Europe. Moreover, the EU is legally obliged to reach the severe target of re-using or recycling at least 50% of EU household waste and 70% of industrial waste by 2020. Therefore, the management of waste is an inevitable responsibility for the industry. EU member states are required to establish a sustainable waste management plan till the end of 2013. As a consequence, waste ink recycling for the printing industry has been considered to have great potential due to the important role of the flexographic and gravure printing industry in the EU. Nonetheless, a sufficient amount of good quality recycled ink has hardly been achieved yet, since most of the conventional technology for the treatment of waste ink is based on the incineration process.

Waste ink is usually produced with high solvent, resin, and pigment content. Incineration of these components generates a certain amount of CO2, nitrogen oxides and contaminants like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), substances, in short, with an enormous malevolent environmental impact. Moreover, the market saturation in the printing industry is reflected in large production capacities, falling prices and low profitability in commercial printing. This implies the need to adjust the maximum cost of raw material consumption, environmental management and waste collection. Implementing the 'Technology for the recovery of ink paste residues' involves the use of recycled products as raw materials, thus greatly reducing production and waste treatment costs. Therefore, a new technology for the recycling of waste ink for the printing industry and a systemic implementation strategy for the relevant industry have to be developed in order to reduce the environmental impact and induce a sustainable innovations for the recovery of resources. For this purpose, we use a new advanced technology, the Olax 22 process as recycling technology for waste ink management. It is based on infrastructures to establish closed loops employing a distillation process instead of incineration. This technology is expected to result in less environmental damage and enhance the use of recycled products as raw materials, thereby greatly reducing production and waste treatment costs. For suitable adaptation at the industrial and social level, our systemic implementation strategy will be achieved by evaluating the environmental, socio-ecologic and economic impact of the technology implementation in the relevant industry with optimum methodologies for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). These methodologies address the systemic aspects of the adaptation of the new process to the relevant value chains which will result in systemic innovations for the recovery of resources. Consequently, a new green business model for the relevant industries will be established. For commitment support at government level, policy recommendations to promote the new green business model in the relevant industries will be suggested for an innovative management strategy to achieve sustainable waste management in EU.

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