It will go down as one of those serendipitous decisions, a small on the spur choice that could end up having much wider consequences.
When ABC Imaging faced an audit by a longstanding client to ensure that it was still getting good value from its printer, sales director Duncan Stuart says that the there was not much to choose between those filling in the tender form. Companies had ISO 9001, they had ISO 14001, so on paper they would be difficult to distinguish. ABC Imaging would slash its use of single-use plastics and then to turn this into an industry wide campaign.
Six months on, 15 companies have pledged their support and can use the Printers against Plastic logo and display a certificate to declare that they have made a commitment to cut consumption of single use plastics by 50% in a year.
“We have had quite a lot of support,” says Stuart, “including from the City of London. People are slowly ditching their consumption of single-use plastics.
“It began when we needed to demonstrate on a tender form that we were going further than any rival. Looking around the press room, there was a lot of plastic in use: a water cooler with plastic cups, plastic bottles for water, plastic bags used by staff for lunchtime shopping and more.”
The water cooler has gone and with it the 1,000 single-use plastic cups used each month. Instead staff have metal bottles that are reused. Plastic cutlery has been replaced by wooden disposable knives and forks and now a dishwasher has been installed. Milk for tea and coffee is going to arrive in bottles. There are cloth bags rather than plastic when staff need to pop out to the shops.
As far as the day to day operation of the business is concerned, bubble wrap for protective packing is now made from biodegradable plastics, business card boxes are made from card not plastic and the company is making good use of materials that might have been thrown away.
The business card boxes are printed on a Canon Arizona from 350gsm boards and cut out on ABC’s Zund plotter cutter. An anonymous opaque plastic box is now a box made of recyclable material and carries the Stuart brand. It is turning Dibonds and Foamex into coasters with messages saying “this is 6mm Dibond” to anticipate frequently asked questions about these materials. It is about to start using Dispa, an Antalis product that can be printed on the Arizona. “It has no plastics and is made from FSC fibre,” he says. “and can be used for displays in the way that Dibond can.”
Antalis is backing the initiative as is Canon, although there is no money changing hands. The printers who signed up in support are also coming through with strong stories about internal response and support from their customers.
Renz has helped ABC replace plastic comb binding with a metal alternative and it has used a binding strip to replace the plastic folders that are commonly used to hold construction plans together. Plastic folders can have a biodegradable acetate for the clear covers that are frequently supplied with the job and which are almost immediately discarded.
The project has been welcomed by the company’s 50 staff even though their plastic pens have been taken away and replaced by pencils. “People are coming up with more stuff. We know that if we don’t do something this is not going away,” says Stuart.
The pencils can be branded on the Canon flatbed inkjet press using a jig to hold the pencils in place while having ABC Imaging’s name and website details on their side. “If every one of our staff was using ten pens a year, that is 500 pens that are not going to end up in landfill.”
And the low hanging fruit like this has spurred suggestions from staff, promoting suggestions from the teams about the unnecessary use of plastic. This is not a purist campaign. Stuart acknowledges that it is impossible to eliminate all examples of plastic is use.
In the company’s front office where walk in trade comes to talk about small print jobs, say a student with a dissertation, there is a drinks machine. The plastic cups from this are collected, shipped away and are recycled into plastic furniture. “And we have a waste transfer certificate to prove that this is being done.
“We think that any printer can do this. We are going to be involved in rewriting the section in the Continuous Personal Development for architects about what modern printing should look like.”
And that is going to be a print business where plastic is reused, recycled or removed from the workplace. “We have always been innovative in how we work. This is a way that we can stay ahead of the game.”
By Gareth Ward
Single use plastic water bottles used by staff at ABC Imaging have been replaced with refillable containers as part of the Printers against plastic campaign. There is no financial cost to joining, just a pledge to change the approach used.