When it comes to environmental initiatives, companies tend to focus on large-scale projects like cardboard recycling. What they often overlook are some areas that may seem insignificant but actually can have a measurable impact on the environment.
One of those areas is product and package marking. Ink-jet marking directly onto packaging instead of on labels can reduce paper usage to a surprising degree, said Videojet Technologies' Scott Prochaska in an interview. Videojet manufactures ink-jet marking equipment and supplies, so you should expect Prochaska to be biased. But he does have a point: A one-shift operation running 35 hours a week, 50 weeks a year labeling just one package a second could use up 6.3 million labels annually. Bump that up to two labels per second and two shifts, and you're talking 25 million labels each year.
Which ink you use can affect the environment, too. Prochaska, who is Videojet's product manager-supplies, said that ethanol- and acetone- based inks, which are not made from fossil fuels, are less polluting than traditional formulas. Water-based inks, the most environmentally friendly of them all, are available, but they don't dry fast enough to meet most shippers' needs, he said.
Ink-jet printing has the added advantage of being compatible with recycling efforts, the company says. The tiny amount of ink on products like aluminum cans and plastic bottles does not interfere with recycling or contaminate the recycled material.