Laminates, which are commonly used in print materials such as business cards, flyers, posters, banners, packaging, and signage, provide a glossy or matt finish and enhance the durability of printed products.
However, these conventional laminates pose a significant threat to the environment due to their inability to biodegrade or be recycled, leading to adverse effects on the earth.
In this article, I will delve into the environmental impact of laminates in print, highlight the challenges of recycling conventional laminates, and discuss eco laminates as a more sustainable alternative.
What is a Laminate?
Conventional laminates, typically made from layers of plastic films, are non-biodegradable and persist in the environment for hundreds of years. When these laminated products end up in landfills or as litter, they contribute to the ever-increasing plastic pollution crisis.
Plastic pollution has detrimental effects on wildlife and marine ecosystems, as animals can ingest or become entangled in plastic, leading to injury or death.
Moreover, plastic pollution also impacts human health, as micro-plastics, which are tiny particles of plastic that break down over time, can enter the food chain and potentially pose risks to human health.
Recycling conventional laminates is also challenging due to their composition. The process of separating the plastic film from the paper or other substrates used in printing is complex and costly, often requiring specialised equipment and expertise.
As a result, most laminated print products end up in landfill or incinerators, adding to the growing burden of waste and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions from incineration.
Is There an Alternative for Durability?
To address the environmental concerns associated with conventional laminates, eco laminates have emerged as a more sustainable option. Eco laminates, also known as green laminates, are made from biodegradable or compostable materials that are designed to break down naturally in the environment.
These laminates are manufactured using renewable resources, such as plant-based materials like corn or potato starch, and do not contain toxic chemicals or harmful additives. As a result, they have a significantly reduced impact on the environment compared to conventional laminates.
One of the key benefits of eco laminates is their recyclability. Unlike conventional laminates, which are difficult to recycle, eco laminates can be easily separated from the printed substrates, allowing for efficient recycling of the paper or other materials.
The separated eco laminate can be composted or recycled, reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill or incinerators. This not only conserves valuable resources but also helps to mitigate the environmental impact of printed materials.
How are Eco Laminates Made?
The production process of eco laminates also has a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional laminates. Conventional laminates are typically made from fossil fuel-derived plastics, which require significant energy and resources to produce.
In contrast, eco laminates are made from renewable materials, which have a lower environmental footprint and help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, many eco laminates are produced using environmentally responsible manufacturing practices, such as using water-based adhesives and inks, further reducing the environmental impact of the laminating process.
Eco laminates offer a wide range of applications, making them suitable for various print materials. They can be used for posters, banners, business cards, packaging, and other printed products, providing the same level of protection and durability as conventional laminates without harming the environment.
Many eco laminates are also free from harmful chemicals and additives. Conventional laminates may contain toxic chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can have adverse effects on human health and the environment.
In contrast, eco laminates are often manufactured using water-based adhesives and inks, eliminating or significantly reducing the use of harmful chemicals. This makes eco laminates a safer option for workers, consumers, and the environment.
A Good Move for Branding
The use of eco laminates can contribute to sustainability certifications and eco-labelling for printed products. Many eco laminates are certified by third-party organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which ensure that the laminates are produced using responsible and sustainable practices.
These certifications can add value to your brand, as they demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible sourcing.
The Challenges of Eco Laminates
It is worth mentioning that while eco laminates offer numerous benefits and are a more sustainable option compared to conventional laminates, they are not without challenges. One of the challenges is the availability and accessibility of eco laminates.
As with any emerging technology or product, eco laminates may not be as widely available or as affordable as conventional laminates due to factors such as production scale, demand, and market penetration.
However, as the demand for sustainable options increases and technology advances, it is expected that the availability and affordability of eco laminates will improve, making them a more viable option for the printing industry.
As consumers and businesses alike become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their choices, brands have a responsibility to adopt more sustainable practices for their print.
The use of laminates in print has long been a common practice, but the negative environmental effects associated with conventional laminates cannot be ignored. The inability to biodegrade or be recycled, and their contribution to plastic pollution, are significant concerns. However, eco laminates offer a promising solution to these issues.
In conclusion, the use of eco laminates in print can be a positive step towards mitigating the environmental impacts associated with conventional laminates. By embracing eco laminates, brands can contribute to a more sustainable and responsible approach to laminates in print, supporting ethical workforce practise, conserving resources, reducing waste, and protecting the planet for future generations.
It is time to prioritise eco-friendly options and make conscious choices that promote sustainability through your brand and beyond.
About the Author
Gemma is a logo and branding designer at Emotion Brands and enjoys working across strategy and design. During her 20 year career she has worked with global brands, such as Davines, Secret Escapes, Wella Professionals and L'Oréal. She's constantly evolving her skills and enjoys taking a holistic approach to branding, with a particular interest in sustainability and eco print practices.
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