We understand the level of impact the clothing industry has on the environment and even in our small shop we are doing our best to try to limit our personal impact. We like to be open about what we use and how we use it, so you can learn more about what we currently do and plan to do below.
We’re also always open to suggestions or working with other local businesses to help further, so if you think of anything just get in touch!
Water and waste
The two major things that come out of garment printing are water usage and waste. In 2018 we chose to invest in a dip tank for reclaiming our screens and boy did we see a difference! Firstly the time taken to clean screens was drastically reduced, and in addition, so was the water usage, electricity and wastage.
To put things in perspective, imagine cleaning a screen is like washing some plates. You run the water, scrub, rinse, add some more soap to scrub a bit more and then rinse again for each plate. Very wasteful. But with a dip tank you slot up to 8 plates at once in a bucket with high powered washing up liquid and leave them there for a bit, then rinse. The cleaning fluid in the dip tank only has to be changed every 6-12 months so it works out a great water saving piece of kit!
CHEMICALS MADE FROM SOY
Did we mention that our ink cleaner is an eco product? Gone are the days of the high powered chemicals that required huge amounts of PPE, we now use cleaning chemicals that are based from soybeans. Franmar’s “bean-e-doo” plastisol ink remover smells a bit like chips but is a fantastic screen cleaning product and replaces the horrible, stinky and toxic chemicals of yesteryear. The franmar range is low odor, 100% biodegradable and drain safe, all whilst doing it’s job, so it’s safer for the environment and everyone who works with it!
In addition to the Franmar range of products, we use Easisolv and Amex brands. Easisolv makes the chemical we put in our dip tank, which is a non-hazardous, low-odor, non-flammable emulsion remover. Amex is the main brand of ink we use (they also make our emulsion) – and our suppliers informed us that there is no animal products or derivatives in the ink or the emulsions, making them vegan friendly. All of the inks are also pthalate free.
Our primary ink is still plastisol over waterbased but you can read a bit more about that lower down this page by clicking here.
Boxes, boxes and more boxes
With the amount of stock that passes through the studio we get a lot of boxes in through our door. So what do we do with them? To keep wastage down, we re-use as many as we can. Most cardboard boxes can be used 4 to 5 times before they lose their strength and stability, so if a box that comes in is in good enough condition we will re-use it to send out your orders.
If the box is a bit…well…on the weak side… or unusable, we will shred it into piece and send it for recycling. Almost all of the boxes we receive are able to be re-used, so not that many make it to the shred.
Of course, we would LOVE to have our own branded boxes in the future, but for now re-using what we get in works and stops any unnecessary waste – if we made our own boxes, the ones we receive with stock would still need to be shredded and recycled, and we would be cutting down trees to make new boxes that are exactly the same dimensions of the ones we’re recycling. That’s too many trees killed!
We try to recycle or repurpose everything we can, although this can be difficult with some things. The basics of general day to day recycling – anything being paper, card, plastic or metal – are recycled fortnightly, with our non-recyclable waste being kept to a minimum.
Empty ink and emulsion pots are dried and stacked, and our empty spray tack cans are added in. All of these are then boxed up and sent to a company called JG Environmental that deals with print shop waste. They are fantastic and have the specialist equipment to separate and recycle anything that’s salvagable and convert the rest into electricity via incineration.
Ink cartridges and toners from all of our printers, including the eco-sol inks from the large format printer are collected, boxed and sent off to relevant companies that can refill or recycle the parts.
Vinyl is a different problem, and produces a lot of physical waste but we are working on what we can currently. The carrier sheets that are non tacky are made of PET film and can be recycled, but the rest of the waste is difficult to deal with. That is changing this year! Our vinyl supplier Dae Ha has recently brought out some more eco friendly vinyl products which we are excited to try, this year they are also planning on introducing a service where weeded and scrap HTV can be sent to them to be turned into energy for homes instead of landfill – an exciting change in the industry!
We are looking to offer a range of salvaged gift products that are made using scrap heat transfer vinyl to help reduce the amount of waste vinyl we currently produce. Any of our scrap sign vinyl we offer for free for anyone looking to do arts and crafts, and we also offer up our empty vinyl rolls to anyone that needs them as they’re a strong cardboard tube that can be pretty useful!
Digital World and LOOKING FORWARD
A few years ago we made the decision to switch our print managment to a digitial software – this is American (as is most of the screen print industry) and is designed for large scale print shops, so it does have it’s pitfalls but on the whole we’ve found it a great help. It’s allowed us to cut down paper and printing consumption by almost 85%. It’s great for screen print management but is a little lacking for general customers needing one off jobs in vinyl. Heading into the future we’re looking to either adapt the software we have or work on something new that would allow us to manage all of our ordering process digitally in an efficient way – there are so many variables it’s a big undertaking but we are working on it!
Our mailing bags for shipping small orders are currently made from a percentage of recycled material and are recyclable themselves, but if possible when our current stock is used we would like to change to either biodegradble or 100% recycled mailers.
If possible we’d like to find a way to reduce our energy consumption by using a renewable energy source for some part of our usage, we’re currently in a rented property so we will need to see what is viable or no on that front.
THE BIG ECO DEBATE: PLASTISOL OR WATERBASED?
So lets get on with this, the big war between plastisol inks and water-based inks has raged on since the age of the dinosaurs. Ok, not quite that long…but still a pretty long time. And in that time plastisol has always been the bad boy of the ink world, but times have changed.
Lets cover some of the basics to start:
What's the difference between plastisol & waterbased ink?
Plastisol ink is a liquid ink that contains PVC resin and a plasticizer, yup, PLASTIC. Now you see why it instantly gets the bad boy name. It uses heat to cure the ink and sits on top of the fabric fibers leaving a thicker feel. Plastisol is the industry standard of ink because of it’s useability.
Waterbased ink is similar to a powder paint – the ink particles are held in a water base. It again uses heat and air to dry, this is because it needs to evaporate the water to just leave the ink. The ink then seeps into the fabric fibers, resulting in a softer feel.
SO WHICH IS MORE ECO FRIENDLY?
This is where the true debate begins. It’s not really about which ink is more eco friendly, but proving that plastisol is not as evil as the past has made out. Lets start by looking at the good and bad points of each:
GOOD POINTS: PLASTISOL
GOOD POINTS: WATERBASED
BAD POINTS: PLASTISOL
BAD POINTS: WATERBASED
So from all that, the way it feels on the shirt or the overall vibrancy of the print on various colours doesn’t factor into the eco friendly section. We only have to look at the environmental points for this debate. That means the key things to look at are: clean up, curing energy and wastage. Let’s go!
Plastisol clean up solutions have changed a lot since the stinky, heavy chemicals of the 90s. Personally at Sticky Ink we use a brand of cleaning solutions called “Bean-e-do”, which are eco friendly and drain safe. With that said, you can now see the clean up is level with waterbased. It no longer needs nasty chemicals.
Curing is up next – both inks will cure at about 160ºC, but waterbased inks need to run through the tunnel dryer slower or with a forced air system. They need to be in the core of the dryer for at least 1 minute to evaporate all of the water, and sometimes even need to be passed through the dryer twice. Plastisol inks will cure in around 30 seconds, so you can see the energy saving on that one.
Finally we have wastage. Plastisol can stay in un-lidded pots for months and in screens for days and it will not go off. It will only harden when cured by the high heat mentioned above. Waterbased inks will dry in air if not kept in a sealed container, and will eventually dry out and become unusable even if they are kept in the pots. They also dry in screens, which in turn clogs up the mesh and means you have to wash off the screen and start over.
Hopefully from this you can see that plastisol isn’t as bad as people make out and that the impact on the environment has been greatly reduced by modern advancements. This is why plastisol is still the preferred choice for most print shops.