A Pollution Prevention Guide for the Printing Industry

Three Rs for the 90s: Reduce Reuse Recycle


Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

The Printing Industry

Commercial printing is a chemical-intensive industry that produces many types of waste. The waste comes from a variety of activities, such as platemaking, image processing, and printing and finishing. Some of the wastes are classified as hazardous by federal or state regulations; others, though not necessarily hazardous, can nevertheless be damaging to the environment if not handled properly; and all require proper treatment and/or disposal at significant cost to the business. A list of the types of waste that the shop owner or manager must contend with could include:

  • waste paper
  • lubricating fluids
  • chemicals, inks, and solvents
  • dirty rags
  • filters
  • absorbents
  • process wastewater
  • printing plates
  • empty product containers

Whatever the nature and characteristics of the waste may be, it all has one thing in common: All waste represents loss of resources and loss of money.

Businesses throughout the country have implemented waste reduction programs and found that there are many benefits to be gained from such an approach to the management of resources. Reducing the amount of waste your business generates can help you:

  • reduce operating costs
  • reduce waste disposal costs
  • reduce long-term liability
  • help sustain environmental quality
  • improve workplace safety and health
  • project a positive public image

The most effective way to minimize the losses associated with waste is to avoid producing the waste in the first place. This is the concept behind DNREC’s Pollution Prevention Program, which has produced this Fact Sheet to assist you and others in the printing business to reduce your losses while at the same time helping to improve the environment.

Getting Started

Getting off to a good start is crucial to the success of any endeavor. Here are some important things to consider in undertaking a waste reduction program:

Printing materials that have exceeded their shelf life may still be usable. Check with local theater groups, college graphic arts departments, etc., before discarding expired materials.

Establishing Good Housekeeping Practices

Improving the shop’s housekeeping practices is often the easiest and least expensive way to reduce waste. Good housekeeping includes good inventory control and efficient operating procedures. Here are some housekeeping tips:

Reducing the Toxicity and Quantity of Printing Wastes

Waste reduction entails a reduction in both the toxicity and the quantity of waste being generated. Here are some suggestions for reducing some of the wastes that may pose disposal problems for the printing industry:

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling Other Wastes

Waste reduction plans address all of the waste streams being generated by a particular business or industry. Try to find ways to apply the Three Rs to all of your shop’s waste, including such things as waste paper, empty containers, lubricating fluids, etc. Here are some tips for these types of materials:

Following up

As long as wastes are being produced, there is the potential for waste reduction. Less-polluting materials, equipment, and procedures are constantly being developed, so that wastes that are difficult or costly to control today may be easily eliminated tomorrow. Stay alert for such developments.

When buying new equipment, look for equipment that will minimize both the amount of toxic materials used and the amount of waste produced.

Reassess the shop’s operations and waste handling practices periodically with an eye to avoiding the temptation of slipping back into old, more wasteful ways of doing things and to identifying additional waste reduction possibilities.

Publicize the firm’s commitment to waste reduction. Customers will feel good about doing business with a company that is environmentally responsible.

Sources of Additional Help

This Fact Sheet is not intended to be a comprehensive list all of the techniques that could be used to reduce waste in a printing shop. Each shop is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities for minimizing waste; therefore, each waste reduction program will be unique. There are an number of resources available to help Delaware businesses develop and implement programs that meet their individual needs:

This publication is one of a series of pollution prevention guides for various types of businesses. For more information on this and other pollution prevention or waste minimization programs, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control at 739-3822 or 739-6400.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is an equal opportunity employer. No person or group shall be excluded from participation, denied any benefits, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or handicap.


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Last Updated: December 16, 1996