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Green teams

Feb 1, 1996 12:00 AM


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If you manage a prepress house or printing business, you may be looking to cyberspace to market your services or transfer electronic files. No matter how high you fly though, you still have to keep your eyes on theground. Carefully monitoring the wastewater you discharge into the local sewer system--if you are allowed to discharge at all--is one responsibility. Hazardous waste disposal and overall waste reduction are others. Fortunately, graphic arts vendors offer a variety of programs and products that can help.

J.A.C. Lithographers in West Babylon, NY has taken advantage of a vendor's total solution. Joy Severino, supervisor at J.A.C., describes the firm as an "environmentally conscious" company. Although the word "lithographers" appears in its name, the firm is exclusively a high-end color electronic prepress house. It is, however, affiliated with printer Jaguar Advanced Graphics. Severino says much of its work is in the publishing arena, doing color prepress work for books and magazines.

In addition to a concern for the environment as part of the company's culture, J.A.C.'s location in Suffolk County on Long Island puts it in what is commonly known as a "zero discharge" area. No matter what kind of silver recovery system is used, wastewater from J.A.C.'s two processors cannot be disposed of through the sewers or publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

Approximately two years ago, J.A.C. began using DuPont's DuCare, an environmental film processing system that includes recycling of developer and fixer plus optional washwater treatment in place of a hauling service.

"The environment is important to us," Severino says. "DuCare is a good system. It's worth it."

"We're ecology conscious," echoes Al Presco, president of Virtualcolor (Itasca, IL). Virtualcolor is a high-end electronic prepress shop and a wholly owned subsidiary of Ft. Dearborn Lithograph. The shop opened its doors in March 1995 after acquiring the location of the former Screaming Color.

"Itasca is a zero-discharge location," he says. "We even need a permit for our water faucets."

Presco describes half of Virtualcolor's work as commercial, serving catalog companies and advertising agencies, with the other half produced for the packaging and label industries. He estimates that approximately 10 percent of the packaging and label segment is prepress for flexography, with 90 percent for offset.

Five months ago, the company adopted Agfa's Alliance line of film and paper materials and began using components of Agfa's Planet Agfa waste management solutions, including Agfa chemistry. Mike Bialko, systems administrator at Virtualcolor, explains that the company installed a closed-loop system that includes lines from a 300-gal. chemical tote to holding tanks along side of each of two film processors. When needed, the processors are replenished from these holding tanks.

Processor overflow goes into another set of holding tanks and subsequently is pumped back to a holding area and into vats. As part of a recently announced discount arrangement with Agfa, Safety-Kleen picks up the spent developer and fixer and leaves empty containers. Agfa takes the original containers and supplies new chemistry. Water is recycled not only for the processors, but throughout the entire plant.

Presco notes that Virtualcolor chose the film and chemistry system with economic and quality concerns in mind, in addition to having to achieve regulatory compliance. "We need a high-quality film, and we use a lot of film--about a roll every two hours," he relates. "We also needed a product that could work in a closed-loop system."

In addition to DuPont and Agfa, Kodak and Safety-Kleen also offer affordable environmental services in connection with their equipment and consumables. Some programs have been available for several years now; others have been implemented recently.

Since DuCare was introduced some three years ago, it is one of the "oldest" programs for graphic arts companies. Dave Mitchell, marketing manager for Graphics Systems, DuPont Printing and Publishing, notes that, to date, the service has attracted more than 600 users.

When a customer signs onto the program, DuPont provides the appropriate size collection container for developer and fixer and establishes replacement rates. DuPont picks up spent film chemistry, analyzes it and issues a check or credit for recovered silver. The chemistry then is rejuvenated for reuse. All customers have to do is collect spent chemistry in their shops, complete labeling and shipping documentation, call for pickups of spent chemistry and order more recycled chemistry.

"Conceptually, it's a very simple process," Mitchell says. "It's a matter of setting up hoses. However, some customers have chosen to install plumbing to take chemistry from a central location to all their processors. Then, they order the 330-gal. tote and pump the chemistry in and out. They never have to fiddle with anything." DuCare chemistry also is available in 5-, 15-and 55-gal. sizes.

Mitchell points out that DuCare chemistry is convenient because the developer and fixer are formulated to use at full strength, eliminating the need for measuring and mixing in-house. He also adds that DuPont recovers more silver for customers in its controlled environment than is possible with typical silver recovery units customers use.

"In maintaining this program," Mitchell explains, "we are trying to look at our responsibilities as a supplier. We want to help ourselves and our customers, so we provide a product family of chemicals. Since we are recycling, we also reduce the amount of chemicals we generate as a company, as well as conserve raw materials. Everyone wins."

Another group of services comes from Kodak under its EKOLOGY program. Under this banner, a mix of products, programs and services has evolved during the past several years to address customer environmental, health and safety challenges. Among the components are the Kodak RELAY program, Analytical Services, the Q-99 Training Kit for the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, systems for silver recovery and wastewater recirculation, and a free parts recycling program.

The RELAY program, which encompasses a hauling agreement with Safety-Kleen, offers users of Kodak photographic chemicals discounted pickup and removal of waste streams from working-strength solutions made from those chemicals. Analytical fees from Safety-Kleen for Kodak chemicals are not charged to customers. RELAY also includes assistance for customers in obtaining waste generator ID numbers and help with training for waste management.

"In order to accept a waste for hauling, a transporter has to run a waste analysis to confirm the identity of the material," explains Brian M. Wrisig, manager of Environmental, Health, and Safety Affairs for Printing and Publishing Imaging, Eastman Kodak.

Wrisig notes that the Analytical Services component of the EKOLOGY program offers reasonably priced, accurate testing of photographic waste. Kodak offers silver, metals and custom analysis testing options. The latter covers components falling outside the parameters of silver and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) testing. For example, some municipalities regulate biological oxygen demand (BOD), ammonia and other constituents found in industrial effluent.

"We've offered these analytical services for about three years," Wrisig says. "Our most common orders are for tests of silver in solution. We've worked with the federal EPA and developed approved, accurate measurement procedures. Some outside labs may not be aware of these procedures, and if they do the silver analysis by simply looking up an EPA test method, they may come up with spurious results. They may report the presence of metals such as cadmium and lead that couldn't possibly be in effluent from photographic chemistry."

EKOLOGY's bailiwick is also health and safety, and the Q-99 Training Kit for OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard was created specifically for printing and publishing companies. In addition to training videos that cover the standard itself, understanding Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and chemical hazards in the workplace, the kit also includes written plans, an instructor's training manual and more. In fact, the content list encompasses everything required by the standard.

Interestingly, according to Jim Richards, environmental and safety director at the Printing Industries of Northern California, of the top 20 OSHA violations, at least 11 are common in printing plants. However, "the lack of a written Hazard Communication Plan is by far number one."

"We'd like our clients to think of Kodak Environmental Services (KES) as a consulting company," Wrisig says. "We have 20 plus individuals who are environmental professionals on staff.

Agfa groups its value package of waste management services and products under the Planet Agfa umbrella, with the new rapid access Alliance film and paper line closely associated with the program. According to J.P. Mondeau, product marketing manager for Alliance films, the product line is associated with the Planet Agfa program because it was designed with quality, ecology and economy in mind.

For example, he explains that Agfa chose to create a hard dot on the film optically as opposed to chemically, the net result being substantially lower chemical usage. In addition, he points to the dramatic change in packaging for the line. "The change is quite visible," Mondeau says. "The old orange cartons have been replaced with neutral corrugated boxes with a label. They're easy to recycle. We also used 30 percent fewer materials for packing than for previous products. Everything, including the tape, is recyclable. It was a conscious decision at Agfa."

Planet Agfa itself has seven components, says David Furman, marketing manager of ecology and chemistry. "It consists of the Agfa-Safety-Kleen agreement; two silver recovery units and a water manager unit; AgfaSolid, a solid rapid access chemistry with packaging 50 percent lighter than the same amount of liquid-based chemistry; a polyester plate recycling program; and ecology training and educational materials.

"Our environmental philosophy is the three Rs--reduce, reuse and recycle," he continues. "We emphasize source reduction first. We have two levels of solutions for photographic wastes, depending on the region the customer is in. The first level is to pretreat wastes and let them go down the drain if regulations permit. The second level is for the strictest areas. There, we work to reduce wastes with the proper equipment, and Safety-Kleen removes the remainder at discounted rates."

Safety-Kleen is well known for its hazardous waste hauling services and silver recovery as well. Last October, the company announced a new national alliance with Kimberly-Clark to recover disposable industrial wiping products for beneficial re-use.

Customers using Kimberly-Clark's wiping products, such as Kimtex Shop Towels and Workhorse Manufactured Rags, can store soiled wipers for Safety-Kleen to collect. Safety-Kleen then blends the used products with high-Btu fluid wastes to create a supplemental fuel. EPA-permitted cement kilns then use this supplemental fuel in cement manufacturing.

"The program is in full operation with non-printing customers, but is beginning to be received by printers," says Mike Skurauskis, product manager for fluid recovery at Safety-Kleen. "We have some newspaper, small printer and screen printer conversions, and a major laundry supplying shop towel services for printers is interested in offering the service."

"It will be the wave of the future," he adds, "particularly if the EPA determines that disposable towels are not a hazardous waste if they go through a program like this. Combine that regulatory incentive with the more stringent water discharge regulations laundries are facing and it bodes well for the future."

For small printers, the financial outlay is comparable for the disposable program relative to a shop towel laundering service, Skurauskis says. Larger printers need to consider other factors such as lost towels and environmental surcharges from their laundries when they calculate their cost per towel. To help make the program more economical, since hauling charges are per drum, not per wipe, Safety-Kleen suggests using an in drum compactor to maximize the storage capacity of each storage drum.

"We always suggest working with an in-drum compactor," Skurauskis points out. "In many cases, printers can reduce the contents of three drums to one drum. They take up the same space as a 55-gal. drum and even can be stored on top of a drum. You can purchase a good drum for about $3,500. The payback on it for a reasonable size printer will be in about six months, depending on how much the shop generates."

Reducing and recycling other kinds of waste also are components of both Kodak's EKOLOGY program and Planet Agfa. While both vendor's programs require some effort on the customer's part, the services themselves are free.

Under its Component Return program, Kodak picks up the UPS shipping charges and accepts returned black or white plastic endcaps from its own graphic arts film rolls and foam pads--the stuffers found inside yellow film roll boxes. Agfa offers a polyester plate recycling program and provides qualified customers with reusable recycling bins for Setprint and Supermaster waste, as well as a pick-up service. The plates end up at a recycler that chops, washes and recycles them into lower-grade polyester products.

Naturally, all of the various vendor environmental services support their own equipment and consumables and have a legitimate marketing aspect. That doesn't alter the fact that today's graphic arts companies now can purchase much of what they need from familiar vendors with expertise in prepress and printing.