Exciting progress in ink chemistry and printing technology over the last few years have provided solutions to the huge challenge of high quality and eco-friendly printing techniques. The real goal is to not only achieve eco-friendly printing methods, but to make the printing process from cradle to grave completely sustainable.
Water-based inks reduce the use or eliminate all use of petroleum-based solvents that produce the VOCs. The limit of this is, they do not stick to most surfaces very readily.
Water-based printing processes have been in use for decades, as they eliminate or reduce the use of petroleum-based solvents, which increase levels of VOCs, toxic substances and energy consumption. For use in food packaging, however, water based inks are slower-drying inks and tend to not stick to the non-absorbent packaging.
Soy Ink is made out of soybean oil, the same oil that in cooking oils, mayo, salad dressings and many other food products. However, soy ink needs petroleum-based pigment along others to make the color develop, which causes it to become inedible. It is lower in VOCs and is much more efficient in the de-inking process after being recycled. The soy ink actually makes for a more vibrant, richer color than traditional inks so it is often preferred.
UV Flexo printing is a technology that has recently become more cost effective. The process involves specially-formulated ink is cured using UV light. UV curable inks are VOC and solvent-free. The UV lamps use almost less than half of the energy consumption. There is also a reduction in clean up, as the ink never dries on the plate, avoiding harsh chemicals and more water. UV Flexo printing is safe enough even for food packaging!