The sustainability jigsaw: the final pieces
How Dutch printer Van As is making its point of sale production processes cleaner and greener.
To be competitive in the point of sale (POS) market, Dutch digital printer Van As needed the right equipment, so it invested in UV offset printers. At its Oud-Beijerland HQ outside Rotterdam, the owner and new FESPA Board member, Wouter van As, bought Heidelberg offset UV presses – “We use UV offset presses because we need to print on non-absorbent materials, like static paper [self-cling vinyl] or vinyl stickers,” he says. While at its Amsterdam facility Van As uses Agfa Tauro large format presses to print on honeycomb board or cardboard. These presses also print onto Re-board, which is part of Van As’s drive towards enhanced sustainability.
“There are a few elements in our approach to sustainability,” says Wouter. “The first part of it is how we run our own business. We look at ourselves and we think about waste management – how can we reduce our waste and how can we recycle the waste that we do have? The stage after that is to try to lower our energy consumption by fitting solar panels to our premises and using LED lights. We also we have a power quality system from OptiVolt, which helps optimise our energy.
“Then there are our customers and delivery of goods. The first thing we did was to make a list of the materials that we use, and a second list of materials with a smaller carbon footprint. When customers ask for a price for products using the less eco-friendly material, we also give them a price with the ‘better’ material to encourage them to switch to more eco-friendly options.
Our customers are more and more in tune with recycling because we promote a circular economy to reuse post-consumer waste or material in the supply chain
“The final part of the sustainability jigsaw is that we have created a recycling box where customers can deposit used polypropylene [PP] products. We pick it up once a month or once every two months depending on the volume, and we can recycle it with the recycling system that we have with our suppliers.
“We believe it is better to work with recycled products than to switch materials. For example, you could switch from PP to cardboard, and you could say cardboard has a better environmental footprint. But in our view it’s better to work with recycled PP because there’s very little virgin material in it. Our customers are more and more in tune with recycling because we promote a circular economy to reuse post-consumer waste or material in the supply chain.”
Eco business is good business
As well as making environmental sense, Wouter believes sustainable printing offers its own business opportunities. But, he says, that might not always be the case as sustainability develops from an optional extra to an expected minimum.
“In the end, if you’re not sustainable, you won’t work for the bigger brands any more – and it always starts with the big brands. For now, it’s an opportunity because there are still not enough suppliers and printers yet embracing it. But eventually, if you are not there with sustainability, you simply won’t get the work from customers,” he says.
I think more companies will specialise in a specific part of the printing industry – you won’t be a general printer anymore, but you’ll specialise in fleet marking or large signage or, as with us, POS
“However, I think the drive towards sustainability comes from more than just the customers. Younger people oppose products that have a negative impact on the environment. So, it’s not just customers – my staff don’t want to work for a company that pollutes the environment. It’s becoming part of our culture.”
Technology is assisting that transmission to having an eco-friendly business. “What’s exciting for me is seeing large format single-pass printers coming through, which use print heads that are so big they cover the whole sheet width at one time. These significantly increase the speed of production and they’re also far more environmentally friendly because you only print what you need. Unlike offset printers, with an inkjet press the first print is as good as the last,” he says.
“As time progresses, we will also become more digitally orientated. Right now, we still have a lot of analogue machinery in the printing business, but I think with every investment that we make, we will become more and more digital.
“The other thing I see is that we will collaborate increasingly with other companies. I think more companies will specialise in a specific part of the printing industry – you won’t be a general printer anymore, but you’ll specialise in fleet marking or large signage or, as with us, POS. Companies will network more and work together to serve the end customer. That’s also interesting in regard to the networking you get with FESPA.”
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