Toxicity is the word my world is going to revolve around for the time being, and I am 100% positive that we can all agree that toxicity is bad; bad for the environment (my category), bad for humans (that will be you and me, unless you're not human), and even bad for finances (the other end of the spectrum). The way I see it is that you can either design a product (product being a print piece, a package, or an actual device like a car) that has little to none toxic materials or affects in it which will most likely cost more than making the same product with the toxic materials (though not necessarily the case), or you can spend a lot of money later down the line to clean up the toxic material side effects, which is where we are now with global warming and landfills etc, so in the long run we pay either way. It's kind of hard to talk about toxicity without talking about recycling, deforestation, energy, pollution, or waste, but toxicity guided my research, it's just too hard to keep it all to the one word topic and find supporting facts and statistics that present the issues from the toxicity perspective.
I know when I say toxic waste you automatically think nuclear plant waste or hazardous waste, dead batteries, or mercury liquid in dead appliances and now light bulbs (which is kind of an oxymoron since those light bulbs are suppose to be better for the environment and yet they are toxic as well, go figure). But what I am referring to for the most part, in this blog post, is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Dioxins.
" VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. Some health effects are eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness." ~United States Environmental Protection Agency
"Dioxins are environmental pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems. Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Their half-life in the body is estimated to be seven to eleven years. In the environment, dioxins tend to accumulate in the food chain. The higher in the animal food chain one goes, the higher is the concentration of dioxins. Dioxins are mainly by products of industrial processes but can also result from natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Dioxins are unwanted by products of a wide range of manufacturing processes including smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides." ~ World Health Organization
Since we are designers and end up doing a lot of printing, I'll focus on paper and printing. Time for some straight up facts brought to you by The State of the Paper Industry, a report published (on-line) today by the Environmental Paper Network, working together to support socially and environmentally sustainable transformations within the pulp and paper industry. summary found at the Daily Green
- First fact, the average American consumes (they make it sound like we eat it) 700 pounds of paper each year.
- Forests store 50% of the world's terrestrial carbon. (In other words, they hold onto carbon pollution that would otherwise lead to global warming.)
- Half the world's forests have already been cleared or burned, and 80% of what's left has been seriously degraded.
- The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries.
- Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).
- Municipal landfills account for one third of human-related methane emissions (and methane is 23-times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).
- If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.
- Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste and -- of course -- 100% less wood.
- In 2003, only 48.3% of office paper was recovered for recycling.
- Printing and writing papers use the least amount of recycled content -- just 6%. Tissues use the most, at 45%, and newsprint is not far behind, at 32%.
I went through a lot of different resources gathering information, facts, and opinions. One source Claims - and facts - about environmental concerns: what magazine publishers should know about paper, inks and polybags even claims that recycling materials for producing paper isn't all that environmental friendly, and when you think about the process such materials have to go through to become ready t be made into paper I have to agree.
"Generally, the further that the source of the waste material is from virgin fiber, the more processing steps--separating, screening, washing, deinking or bleaching--are required, which all entail higher costs and energy use.
To make recycled fine paper, post-consumer and some pre-consumer wastepaper requires deinking and removal of impurities, which in turn generates waste products, such as sludge. The wastepaper also needs a bleaching process for whiteness. Both the sludge disposal and bleaching demand strict controls because of environmental concerns.
Ink removal from printed wastepaper results in a significant yield loss in small fibers, as well as ink and minerals mixed with water. This mixture (or sludge) can be equivalent in volume to as much as 50 percent of the initial amount of wastepaper. Disposal of sludge can be expensive and the subject of strict environmental controls due to the presence of contaminants, like heavy metals and chlorinated organics. It would be much less costly and more environmentally friendly to use old fine paper for applications such as newspaper, tissue and box board."
Though I am not certain what kind of source this information/opinion is based from, it still makes sense. Other sources talked about alternative materials to wood for paper making. Paper Chase by Sam Martin
Like hemp (which is illegal to grow in the U.S. so we have to import it),
agricultural waste or Agri-pulp (wheat, oat, barley and other crop stalks left over after harvesting, combined with recycled paper and other fillers),
and Kenaf a hibiscus plant -- an annual, non-wood fiber plant related to okra and cotton -- is native to central Africa and can grow up to 18 feet tall in a four -to-five month season. Like hemp, Kenaf is naturally whiter than wood and can be bleached with hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine.
This source states that "the major reasons paper mills are hesitant to convert to using kenaf or hemp to make paper is because they are not set up to process anything except trees. Converting a paper mill to process these wood pulp alternatives would cost tens of millions of dollars and major coordination with their suppliers and customers."
As you can see paper is more than just a piece of paper. So what can we do about all of this? It seems our best bet is to reuse, reduce, and recycle. We can also select FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council), chlorine-free paper for your print jobs and office printers, use paper with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled fiber, your goal is 100%. As you can see by fact 8 using recycled paper will have a great positive impact on the environment, but the process of recycling may have some draw backs, so we can push for alternative paper sources like the ones mentioned here and an improvement of the production process to reduce and eliminate VOCs and dioxins from paper and pulp mills, and maybe in our lifetime we will be able to use paper that has only positive effects on the environment from start to finish.
Wish I could find the original source for this, or at least a higher resolution.
Some good resources to check out to help you on your way to becoming a greener designer:
Monadnock Field Guide (Eco-Friendly Print) available in pdf format
What's in Your Paper make sure you watch the youtube clip
And that's just the paper; check my next post for the breakdown on inks.
all images are linked to their sources