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  • Why your design is not getting recycled.

Why your design is not getting recycled.

  • Posted in Default
  • By admin
  • Date January 11th, 2011 18:07
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  • Pollution is everywhere. You did not need me - nor this blog - to point that out to you. Hence we all have this notion instilled in us that we want and need to recycle as much as we can. We figure that anything tossed in a recycling bin is going to get recycled in one way. Maybe more so here in China, where there is always a taker for anything paper. The problem here is contamination. That's a pretty big word, and most of us do not fully understand it. What this means is the blending of two materials which renders both unsuitable for any intended or further usage. Contamination is the quickest way to see an entire batch of recyclables head to the landfill and or incinerators. This is especially true for paper. And paper is kind of big for that graphic design thing we do. We craft it, modify it, have it produced to our and our client's liking. That can - or in most cases it will - hinder any chance to keep your design in the recycling loop. Paper, for starters is rarely made out of paper alone. So your departure here is to already be assured that the paper you selected is safe to recycle. Do you truly know your paper? I will post more on that subject later. You need to know what is accepted by recycling plants, as well as what is refused. The goal of all recycling of paper is to send the pulp back to a paper mill. And mills can have different criteria for the same batch of recycled paper. That said, here are four common scenarios that, when part of your design, will render a paper unsuitable for recycling: Contamination by oil. Now you're asking yourself 'what the **** has oil got to do with my printed design?'. Allow me to clarify; can a pizza box be recycled? If you answered 'Yes' you are right. If you thought 'No' you were right too. This actually applies to any of the to-go or delivery paper food boxes or containers - the oil that is used for cooking will contaminate the paper. In other words; the pizza box that was never used to deliver a pizza has a shot at getting recycled. If it did serve its purpose, it is unsuitable for recycling. Further more, putting it in the recycling bin will risk contaminating any of the suitable paper waste through leakage. Once the oil is absorbed in the paper, it is landfill or incinerator bound - guaranteed. If you remember your chemistry classes, oil and water do not mix. And recycling paper is done by washing it into a pulp. Recycling machines need to make money, there is no collection center that is willing to invest in cleaning their machines every time an oil soaked pack went through it. We're all able to tell the difference between a liquid/water stain and an oil stain, and it hopefully sheds a new light on the whole fast food consumption issue. I just shared why I pretend fast food places do not exist. Okay, so you do not design food containers or packaging every day. But not only do you know the design issue, you now know why you need to limit or avoid consuming this in the first place. And if you did get that pizza for that midnight oil burning production session, put it in the trash and not the recycling bin. Hazardous Products. Don't grunt over me being vague here, because you all know what I mean with it. All your make-it-pretty oil based varnishes, coatings and heavy metal Pantone inks. Let me put it this way; if what is on that paper is deemed unsafe for consumption by humans or animals, you will not see it recycled. Granted, it's not going to make your day, but most consumed ink will not kill you. All the stuff they mix in it, and all other stuff you want to use atop of it, may. And all those hazardous elements will need to get washed out, becoming part of the water waste, risking to find their way into water streams. Not good. Avoid making print work that is shiny, unless it is an absolute criteria. As in; your printing something that has to last longer than you or your children will. By the way; you'd be surprised at just how well paper and ink preserve. In New York City landfills, newspapers that were dated 1930 were still intact and readable. They were not inundating with any varnish back in the day. You have to realize that ink is made to stay onto the paper, and paper is crafted to do the same with an intended ink. There is no natural scenario for it to start bleeding out its chemicals or metals. That only happens when -surprise- we recycle a printed piece of paper. You may have been thinking recycling was the answer, I'm here to point out that recycling is a polluting business. Plastic, Foil and Wax Linings. Now we all appreciate why this is part of a paper or cardboard object. It gives temperature control, makes it water proof, gives strength and durability and would actually use less paper pulp than would have been needed because of it. But here is why you hear all those call outs to carry your own drink bottle, and ask for your hot beverage to get served in a mug instead. These paper coffee cups do not get recycled. Ever. They are called disposable cups, because that is all you can do with them. The cost involved to separate the little bit of paper pulp from the wax lining and its glue makes it bad business. That goes for all those drink packs and milk cartons, and anything else that 'enjoyed' a lining. Think about it; these were made that way to be durable, waterproof containers. And now we expect it to get washed into a pulp? Makes you want to look for glass bottles instead, right? PSA's. Graphic Designer geek talk for pressure sensitive adhesives. Think anything you can peel and stick without needing moisture to make it stick. And although the adhesive part of it does dissolve in water, the sticker part does not. And risks blocking or clogging up the equipment used to recycle paper, or get stuck in the water pipes. So think twice before settling for it whenever a design piece needs a seal of some kind. Address labels, stamps, stickers and even tape all render paper useless to a recycling company. Additional complications come when you start seeing brightly colored PSA's on white paper, since white and colored paper are separated when recycled. Kinda like you do with laundry; you do not want your whites to come out pink. At SGTH we stopped using sticky notes for that reason alone. On your next Direct Mail piece you may want to rethink the usage of that adhesive, metal latches, plastic window envelope or cardboard box. Or have a stapled binding for that magazine you designed. Any 'foreign object' again complicates and ultimately stops paper from getting recycled. Staples rust, and metal oxide is one of those things you do not want to see washed down the drain. Neither do the good folks at the recycling center. You may be thinking by now 'what has all that got to do with me?'. Everything, my friend. Since all these are under your control. It is not the user, nor the recycling company that determines if your work can be recycled. It is you - you decide this when you design it. And the above is the plain-obvious, other production elements come into play as well. Yes, we graphic designers could hide behind our ignorance and declare that it is the consumer who is responsible for how waste is managed, and how stuff gets recycled. 'We just work here' is an attitude you want to avoid. You would want to push yourself to develop as a designer who can meet the brief using alternative solutions that avoid the usage of techniques or elements that compromise getting your prints recycled. You want to feel responsible for failing to do so, as that means that what you create is landfill or incinerator bound. Given the choice between seeing your print design landfill bound or recycling bound, you want to max its chances of getting recycled. Because designing for recycling is the least you could do.
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