The quest to go green is not new to Clear Lake Press. “Environmental initiatives have always been in place here,” said Chris Waldron, VP and general manager for Clear Lake Press. The company has been a member of the Printing Industry of Minnesota’s (PIM) Great Green Printer since 1997. “Being a green printer is much more than just using recycled paper and being FSC certified,” said Gene Ross, pressroom supervisor at Clear Lake Press. “In order to make a large-scale commercial printer run, chemicals are required to clean and wash the blankets and rollers. Most people don’t realize those chemicals can be hazardous.”
Changing for the better
Clear Lake Press has concentrated on reducing hazardous waste. They went to a UV-reactive soy-based ink that needs UV light to dry, which means the press always has wet ink to clean off before printing a new batch. Before the changes, the company used a cleaner that would simply dissolve the ink on the rollers. With the soy-based ink, the pressmen use an aqueous-based cleaner instead. It takes a little more muscle to get the machines clean, but the employees think it’s worth it. Additionally, they use a vegetable-based cleaning solution to clean presses and replaced solvent-based fluids with aqueous-based fluid in all parts washers.
Clear Lake Press also worked with some of its shippers to reuse pallets that would normally be thrown away. Instead of dooming the wooden pallets to the mulch machine, the contractor just replaces a few boards so the pallets are usable again. Used ink is fuel blended, and the ash by-product is used in concrete. Garbage is contracted out to a company in Mankato that burns the garbage for energy. Overall, only about 40 to 60 pounds of ash goes into a landfill.
“Less than one percent of all waste enters a landfill,” Waldron said. “We track it so we know exactly how much we waste.” These kinds of results are then reported back to the employees, who learn about about waste produced and the resultant savings. That is important to Waldron since he says without the employees the changes wouldn’t work. Each of the 34 employees has had training to sort materials, run the machines more efficiently and clean up using the new materials. It was a definite change in the company’s culture.
The bottom line
Since making the transition to green printing, Clear Lake Press has:
- reduced volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) by 92%
- eliminated hazardous waste
- eliminated 1,560 pounds of hazardous parts cleaner fluid
- reduced paper waste from 13.6% to 5.1%
With the new improvements, Clear Lake Press is also saving money. The company has fewer paper purchases and hazardous waste license fees (moved from small quantity generator in 2008 to minimal quantity generator status now). The savings, Waldron said, are then passed on to the customer. By its dedication to going green, Waldron also thinks its customers see Clear Lake cares. That won’t attract every customer, but for some, it is a good selling point.
“The decision to go green was easy,” said Waldron. “We saw an opportunity to provide a safer work place for our employees and be more environmentally responsible, not to mention that more and more of our customers want to do business with environmentally conscious vendors."