A missed opportunity at drupa!

Laurel BrunnerIn her recent post on the blokboek.net blog, which was the associated newsletter/blog during this year’s drupa exhibition, Laurel Brunner states that now that drupa 2016 is over, we can start hoping that in 2020 the environment will be in sharper focus. This year’s organisers missed a great opportunity to take the sustainability lead.

drupa 2016’s attendance and sales numbers show that print is in rude health. Investment into print technology is on the up, so why should drupa bother with promoting print’s sustainability? The simple answer is to support exhibitors and the printing industry. And 2020 is an important year for European companies and citizens because it’s when the European Union’s current Environmental Action Plan (EAP) concludes. One of the plan’s three key objectives is ‘to turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green, and competitive low-carbon economy’. What a gift for print and drupa 2020!

The printing industry already supports this goal with extensive recycling of used printing plates and printed paper in most geographies around the world. Europeans recycle 74 per cent of paper used. Japan labels print to tell consumers how it can be recycled. Printed matter has a one-time carbon footprint. Printing is one of the few industries with a dedicated ISO team developing environmental standards for printing companies and machinery manufacturers. Print has established supply chains for recycling and supports the notion of a circular economy on a massive scale. These are messages that can encourage wider use of print and more visitors to drupa, including agencies, designers and even consumers.

drupa 2016Messe Düsseldorf has a chance to take a global lead to demonstrate print’s sustainability. For drupa 2020, how about random sustainability facts on hall signage: “Did you know that 98 per cent of printing plates are recycled for use in building materials and vehicle manufacturing?” Or “Use and reuse paper because it can be recycled more than five times!” Improving waste handling advice would be good too. At this year’s show there was virtually no additional emphasis for visitors on how they can recycle all those print samples. Bins at the exits perhaps? You get the idea.

A more radical suggestion is to give exhibitors the opportunity to print what the local community wants, instead of random samples that have to go into the waste stream. Messe Düsseldorf could start an outreach programme to work with publishers to produce textbooks and the like that will have value for reuse. We spoke to a number of exhibitors at drupa 2016 who liked this idea.

The Messe could also consider promoting its own environmental credentials, based on drupa 2020’s energy use, and measures for managing emissions. A series of awareness seminars for brand owners and consumers might also support print. Print is often taken for granted as an old medium, with a heavy environmental tread. Why not position it as the trendy and cool alternative to digital media, the medium that uniquely supports the three ‘R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by a group of companies including: EFI, Epson Fespa, HP, Ricoh, Splash PR, and Xeikon.