The webinar, led by Laetitia Reynaud, Policy Advisor at Intergraf in Brussels, and moderated by Ingi Rafn Olafsson, Director of the World Printers Forum (WPF), covered areas like deforestation, free value chains and wood availability, the use of safe and sustainable chemicals and industrial emissions reduction in printing, as well as design requirements applicable to printed paper to achieve circularity.

Intergraf, the European federation for print and digital communication, focuses on advocacy work and representing the printing industry among European institutions, while also providing a platform for information exchange. Its members include 21 national printing trade federations as well as associate members.

The European Green Deal is a priority for Intergraf, along with the logistical problems that come with the current economic situation, skyrocketing energy costs and increasing costs of different input materials. The main problem printers are currently facing is related to the paper situation (prices and capacities).

(The following graphic shows as an example the newsprint price development in Germany between 2012 and 2022:)

The situation is similar for other graphic papers, mainly paper reels like SC and LWC.

Even more concerning for some of Intergraf’s members are the shortages of graphic paper in Europe and not being able to fulfil orders.

As an industry trade organisation, Intergraf has raised its members’ concerns with manufacturers on several occasions, and recently called on UPM to resolve the strike in Finnish paper mills.

“Our role is to try to support our members as much as possible in this current crisis,” Reynaud said.

“One of our aims is to look at how the future will look like in terms of paper supply. One aspect is to look at the paper capacities and how capacities will develop in the future.”

Moving forward, Intergraf is looking for policy initiatives, which will influence the supply of paper, one aspect of the European Green Deal.

In May 2019, a new EU Parliament was elected, and Ursula von der Leyen took office as the new President of the European Commission on 1 December 2019. A few days later, she unveiled the European Green Deal and described it as “Europe’s man on the moon moment”.

With the European Green Deal, all 27 EU Member States committed to turning the EU into the first climate neutral continent by 2050. To get there, they pledged to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

One of the flagship initiatives of the European Green Deal is the EU Forest Strategy for 2030, which concerns the access to wood fibres.

This, along with other areas, such as the search for alternatives to plastics, would increase competition for wood fibres. Moving away from plastics and replacing fibre-based packaging is another priority for the EU Commission that would create more demand for wood.

Another area concerning the sourcing of raw materials is a new initiative from the Commission on deforestation-free products and value chains.

In the Green Deal, the Commission announces that it will take measures to promote imported products and value chains that do not involve deforestation and forest degradation worldwide. The purpose of the Commission is to ensure that only deforestation-free and legal products are allowed on the European market.

Unfortunately, imported printed products are not covered by this legislation (EU Timber Regulation). So, basically it goes from wood to paper, but as soon as you put ink on the paper the products fall outside the scope of the legislation.

The EU Emissions Industrial Directive is a legislation that covers many industrial processes. With regards to printing, the processes covered are the ones consuming more than 200 tons of solvents a year. This therefore concerns heatset printing, review printing and flexo printing. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions have to be reduced.

The use of safe and sustainable chemicals is another priority of the Green Deal, which aims to move towards a zero-pollution environment.

Designing products is an important area, and the Commission presents a new product policy framework, that will make sustainable products the norm.

“We are expecting a package of initiatives at the end of this March,” Reynaud said.

“The focus on plastics is clear, but it won’t be only about plastics. There is an intention to focus more generally on single-use products and reduce their use.”

With the initiative on Substantiating Green Claims, the Commission requires companies to support environmental statements about its products or about the company itself with scientific evidence. The Commission now has its own methodology, the European Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

The carbon footprint of print products will be an important discussion in future for both printers and publishers. There are numerous tools on the market to calculate the carbon footprint of a product or a company. The book publishers are extremely interested in the development on how to calculate the carbon footprint of their products. “The important aspect of our recommendations is that the tools are developed by industry experts for industry experts,” Reynaud said.

The carbon footprint calculator should cover three scopes of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol:

1st The direct emissions of the production.

(> 70% of a total footprint / VOC emissions of a printing process or printed product come from the paper.)

2nd The indirect emissions of energy consumption.

3rd Other indirect emissions of the supply chain.

Two practical tools have been developed by Intergraf’s members:

A German tool and a tool from a consortium of European printing trade associations (ClimateCalc). Both tools provide an assessment of the carbon footprint of both a print process and a print product based on the 13 parameters of the Intergraf recommendations, and both of them offer support to help companies reduce the carbon footprint. There are two ways of doing this: being more energy efficient and act at the paper level (selecting the right substrate to reduce the carbon footprint of the printed product).

Read also our related blog post:
“News media and environmental sustainability: What’s next for ‘green media’?”

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