By guest writer TEXTILE ARTIST MISHA WATERTON
An increase in ethical engagement within consumer behaviour has led to more and more businesses choosing to cater for a growing eco market. Many clients are seeking out eco-printing to ensure their products are as sustainable as possible and this niche market may be set to grow.
There are many elements to consider when working towards a sustainable production system for any design area. For the screen-printing process, there are several companies working to ensure their businesses offer great value, service and products, whilst also limiting their impact on the planet. I Dress Myself, based in Frome, is one leading example of how an eco screen printing business can be run.
Like many printers, their initial concerns lay with the choice of inks available on the market. Plastisol inks are easy to use, durable and offer high performance on a wide range of printing work. They also have a long shelf life and can be re-used indefinitely, therefore limiting waste. Although this makes them ideal for commercial production and remains the mainstream choice for printers, plastisol ink commonly contains PVC and phthalates, which are harmful to the environment and linked to medical conditions. They also require the use of harmful solvents during the cleaning process.
I Dress Myself uses water-based inks from the Permaset Aqua range supplied by Australian ink manufacturer Permaset. The inks are 100% solvent free and only require the use of water during the cleaning process, therefore making them environmentally friendly. Whilst making the switch to water-based inks may seem obvious, learning the new techniques required to use them takes time. Water-based inks have a quick drying speed, so working fast and flooding the screens with excess ink in-between prints is important. This also means a job can’t be left halfway through, without cleaning screens and setting them up again.
There is also a perception that water-based inks are lower performing than plastisols. While this may have been true until recently, developments within the industry have significantly advanced the performance of water-based inks and they can now be seen to be effective across a range of printing techniques.
Together with a focus on ink products, a rounded approach to eco-decision making can increase the overall sustainability of a printing business. Further measures put in place by I Dress Myself include: ensuring packaging materials are recycled or re-used; stocking their standard paper as 100% recycled; and sourcing organic cotton and bamboo T-shirts from Continental Clothing’s Earth Positive range. They also aim to encourage customers to buy from this range by charging at a lower rate.
I Dress Myself is a great example of a print company working sustainably and, like many people working in the sector, they are happy to advise and support others to be more environmentally friendly and to change over to water-based inks. They believe this approach, like any printing process, can be scaled up to achieve greater profit margins. The more companies invest in sustainable products and practice, the more they can contribute not only to environmental health and sustainability, but also to a culture of change that could see this approach becoming mainstream rather than niche.
For more information on I Dress Myself’s Environmental Policy head to: http://www.idressmyself.co.uk/about/environmental-policy