Sustainable Waste Management Strategy for Green Printing Industry Business

Project website

Duration: 36 months

Leader and partners 

• Germany: Kist-Europe Policy and Cooperation Center (leader)
• Spain: University of Alicante
• Switzerland: Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne Department STI/IGM/LICP

Funding organisations  

• Germany: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
• Spain: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacion (MICINN)
• Switzerland: Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU) 

The flexographic/gravure printing industry is responsible for the significant part of waste generation within European countries (mainly Germany, France, and Italy). The EU generates more than 61,000 tonnes of ink-paste waste and each plant has tasked to process 1,200 tonnes annually and 50 plants would be needed to cover the amount of waste generated in Europe. Moreover, the EU is also obliged to the severe target (by 2020, EU households must re-use or recycle at least 50% of their wastes, and industrial waste is required to meet a 70% recycling target) with legislation related to Waste Management in the EU. Therefore, the management of waste is inevitable responsibility for industry to follow and EU member states are required to establish a sustainable waste management plan till the end of 2013. As a consequence, waste ink recycling for printing industry has been considered to have great potential related to the important role of the flexographic and gravure printing industry in the EU. Nonetheless, an enough amount of the recycled ink having good quality was hardly achieved up to present because the most of the conventional technology for the treatment of the waste ink is based on the incineration process. Waste ink of printing industry is produced with high solvent, resin, and pigment content in common.   

Incineration of these components generates certain amount of CO2, nitrogen oxides and contaminants like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which results in enormous environmental impacts. Moreover, the market saturation in printing industry has taken the form of large production capacity, falling prices and low profitability in commercial printing. It implies the need to adjust the maximum cost of raw material consumption, environmental management and waste collection. The implementation of the 'Technology for the recovery of ink paste residues' would involve the use of recycled products as raw materials, thus greatly reducing production and waste treatment costs. Therefore, the new technology for the recycling of waste ink for printing industry and the systemic implementation strategy for the relevant industry have to be sought to reduce the environmental impact and induce a sustainable innovations for the recovery of resources which will result in reduce production and waste treatment costs. For the purpose, a new advanced technology, namely Olax 22 process as recycling technology for waste ink management is employed in this work because its concept is basically on the infrastructures to establish closed loops employing distillation process instead of incineration. This technology is expected to result in less environmental impact and enhance the use of recycled products as raw materials, thus greatly reduce production and waste treatment costs. For a suitable adaptation at industrial and social level, the systemic implementation strategy has to be established. To do this, the environmental, socio-ecologic and economic impact of the technology implementation in the relevant industry will be evaluated by optimum methodologies for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which will address the systemic aspects of the adaptation of the new process to the relevant value chains which will result in systemic innovations for the recovery of resources. Consequently, a new green business model for the relevant industry by employing the new recycling technology could be established depending on the systemic implementation strategy resulting from the integrated evaluation through EIA and LCA. Finally, for commitment support at government level, policy recommendation to promote the new green business model in the relevant industry will be suggested for an innovative management strategy to achieve sustainable waste management in EU.


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