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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Printing -- Flexography Topic Hub: Pollution Prevention Opportunities

Basic information on flexographic printing, including pollution prevention options and links to additional resources.

Pollution Prevention Options


This section contains information about alternatives to pollution control or off-site waste treatment in order to reduce waste generated,as well as costs and liability associated with waste management. Information in this section includes activities and materials specific to the flexographic printing industry that help reduce the toxicity or volume of waste generated and/or released into the atmosphere.

What is pollution prevention? prevention (P2) is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. P2, also known as "source reduction," is the ounce-of-prevention approach to waste management. Reducing the amount of pollution produced means less waste to control, treat, or dispose of. Less pollution means less hazards posed to public health and the environment.

Note that only changes made at the input and process levels make improvements to core operations, thereby providing an investment into the operations. 

12 ways to improve your environmental performance and reduce regulatory burden

  1. For film fixer, use closed loop recycling with silver recovery instead of discharging the fixer down the drain or septic tank.
  2. Never discharge chemicals (even diluted) or water containing fats, oils, or grease into a septic system.
  3. Use a variable, rather than continuous, flow rate when rinsing film to reduce the amount of water used and contaminated by the film processing operation.
  4. Recycle waste and scrap film or use a direct to plate imaging technology to reduce the amount of silver associated with photographic films.
  5. Obtain ink manufacturers recommendations on ideal viscosity, running temperature, and adjustment chemical additions (toner, ammonia, alcohol, other solvent).
  6. Minimize the use of make up solvent used in inks by carefully metering/measuring each solvent addition. Base additions on ink manufacturers recommendations (obtain with each ink) to adjust viscosity up or down.
  7. Keeping ink containers closed to minimize solvent evaporation and minimize paper dust contamination. Keeping containers closed will also help control ink temperature and runability.
  8. Use low vapor pressure (<10 mm Hg at 30 degrees Celsius) cleaning solvents, or water miscible solvents that also have a flashpoint greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Solvents such as perchloroethylene (Perc), toluene, or 111-trichloroethane, and blends that contain benzene compounds, emit hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere. They may also be carcinogenic, and are subject to more regulation than alternative products. Use solvents that contain no hazardous air pollutants and consider the use of automated or alternative parts washers using materials such as CO2.
  10. Centrifuge shop towels to remove excess solvents prior to laundering. Filter and ruse the recovered solvent for cleaning.
  11. Blend and reuse current ink supplies by utilizing an ink mixing system, instead of disposing of press return and leftover ink as a waste that may be considered hazardous.
  12. Recycle all waste paper and office paper instead of disposing of it in a landfill. Consider compactor equipment (portable or permanent) to minimize storage requirement and increase refund for paper.