at Custom Print
This case study highlights the pollution prevention activities
of one print shop. This company's experience shows how making a
real effort to prevent pollution in all parts of printing operations
can save money, benefit the environment, and result in a safer workplace.
Specifically, we show:
To improve worker health and safety, as well as the environment, many
companies have started creative programs to look for more prevention
opportunities. One such company is Custom
Print Corporation in
Arlington, Virginia. Custom Print employees have found that starting
with a "process evaluation" is one of the best ways to find new prevention
methods. A process evaluation is a step-by-step review of your printing
process. To conduct such a review, follow these steps:
- how constant attention to pollution prevention can save money
while reducing the environmental impact of your business.
- how teamwork among employees, vendors, and chemical suppliers
can lead to successful prevention.
- how looking at the big picture, not just at meeting regulations
and cleaning up spills, can point out more ways to prevent pollution.
When your diagram is done, take a closer look at the points where
wastes are produced. There may be ways to reduce each of these wastes.
Remember, wastes indicate lost profit as well as possible environmental
- Take a critical look at each step of your printing process,
from purchasing raw materials to shipping finished product.
- Draw a diagram of the process and mark down every point where
materials are used and where wastes are generated.
- Remember to include the steps in your operation that are not
directly part of the production process (such as waste disposal
and electricity use).
- Where wastes are generated, estimate the cost associated with
lost raw material, and with collecting, tracking and disposing
of the wastes.
Through Chemical Consolidation
As Custom Print started looking for ways to reduce its waste,
a team of employees took stock of the number of chemicals the company
used. Inventory and purchasing records showed over 80 different
chemicals on-site. Often, the less frequently used products would
expire. The money spent on them was wasted, and by law they had
to be properly disposed of - another expense. Many more were product
samples, often used once and left to clutter the stockroom until
they too passed their expiration dates. In addition, the large inventory
created extra labor costs. Employees had to order and track each
chemical, and ensure compliance with government regulations.
To address these problems, Custom Print assembled a team of press
operators, purchasing staff, and maintenance personnel. This team
not only looked at the causes of the large inventory, they recommended
several ways to reduce it. The solutions they found included:
These changes reduced the number of chemicals on-site from over 80
to just 24 - a 70% decrease. This has cut pollution and waste (by
reducing the amount of expired chemicals), potential liability, inventory,
and related costs resulting in an estimated $5,000 savings per year.
- Use multi-task chemicals. Working with their suppliers, the
team identified chemicals that can be used for more than one task.
Using these products reduced the stock of infrequently used chemicals
and of expired chemicals.
- Eliminate duplication. The team found that in some cases two
or three different chemicals were being bought for the same task.
To eliminate this duplication, employees who used similar chemicals
got together and reviewed all products in use. As a team, they
selected only one chemical for each task.
- Give unused samples back to the vendors. Custom Print asked
vendors to pick up their unused or partly used samples each time
they dropped off new ones. Custom Print continued testing new,
promising products while getting rid of half-used bottles and
Don't Overlook the Pollution Prevention Opportunities in Your Fixed
Five years ago, Custom Print had problems with unpleasant odor
and employee-reported headaches associated with isopropyl alcohol
in their fountain solution. To reduce the odor, the company installed
an air conditioning system with a high-volume fan. A year later,
Custom Print switched to an alcohol-free fountain solution. While
this change removed the source of the odor, the air conditioner
kept on running at the high volume that had been needed when the
alcohol-based solution was in use.
That air conditioner continued working at maximum capacity until
an employee accidentally turned off the fan. This flip of a switch
completely changed the ventilation in the shop. It reduced the air
exchange rate and led to a fortunate - and profitable - discovery:
now that the alcohol-based fountain solution was gone, less air
exchange was needed. Cutting the air exchange rate had several benefits:
- The air conditioner was able to keep the shop cool more easily,
saving energy and reducing the electric bill by 40%.
- Since the air conditioner was no longer running at maximum capacity,
Custom Print was able to renegotiate their service contract at
a lower price.
- The slower system held the temperature and humidity in the press
room more constant, leading to more consistent print quality.
- During the winter months, the press room could be heated with
just the heat generated by the operating presses, conserving energy
and reducing heating fuel bills. The heating system was only used
on Monday mornings to warm up the shop as the presses were starting
Overall savings associated with using a more appropriate air exchange
Conserving energy and natural resources is a pollution prevention
method that is often overlooked. The lesson learned here is that there
may be opportunities for pollution prevention in some of your fixed
cost operations, such as ventilation, heating, and air conditioning.
Remember, when making changes, it is essential to have enough ventilation
to keep the press room safe.
- An electric bill reduction of $2,000 per month (from $5,000
- A renegotiated service contract, for savings of $200 per month
- A reduced heating bill, for savings of $400 per year
- A total savings estimated at $26,800 per year
Reducing Wasted Ink
Later, Custom Print turned its attention to improving its ink
room operation. Ink was being wasted: colors not often used would
expire before they were needed again. And with hundreds of ink cans
on the shelves, it was hard to locate the ink needed for the job.
The company worked with its ink vendor to change the entire operation
of the ink room:
Custom Print's ink room is now a more organized and cost-effective
operation. They are saving approximately $8,000 per year. And they
have reduced waste and pollution by dramatically reducing the amount
of expired ink.
- Custom Print bought a scale and trained employees to mix the
ink from base colors, rather than ordering premixed PMS colors.
- The company also purchased an inexpensive MixMaster computer
program. This program, licensed by Pantone, gives formulas for
mixing inks from colors in the company's existing inventory.
- Through a consignment agreement with its ink vendor, Custom
Print began to pay only for the ink it actually used. Even though
Custom Print continued to store ink on-site, until a can was opened
it remained the property of the vendor.
Keep Looking for New Opportunities
According to many printers, one of the greatest obstacles to preventing
pollution is resistance to change. People are especially slow to
change a familiar process. Also, the daily demands of production
often make it hard to step back and evaluate the production process
itself, no matter what benefits might result. By taking an objective
view of its operations - and by asking for input from both company
employees and vendors - Custom Print made its facility environmentally
safer and saved money too. By conducting regular evaluations and
working as a team, you too can realize the benefits of change.
About the DfE Lithographic Printing Partnership
The goal of the Design for the Environment (DfE) Lithographic
Printing Partnership is to provide lithographers with information
that can help them design an operation which is more environmentally
sound, safer for workers, and more cost effective.
Concentrating on the process of blanket washes, the partners of
the DfE Lithographic Printing Partnership, in a voluntary cooperative
effort, evaluated 37 different blanket wash products. Information
was gathered on the performance, cost, and health and environmental
risk trade-offs of the different types of substitute blanket wash.
For more details on the evaluations, please refer to the "Evaluating
Blanket Washes: A Guide For Printers."
In addition to the Lithographic Printing Partnership, similar
DfE projects are currently underway with both the screen printing
and flexography industries.
To obtain additional copies of this or other bulletins and case
studies, or for more information about EPA's Design for the Environment
Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (PPIC)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (7407-T)
Washington, DC 20460-0001