Wednesday, 14 December, 2011

How can the packaging industry be greener?

Vijay Gupta of Siegwerk India

“Change management is always difficult, but industry has to lead, especially if there is no law that insists on change for the better.” – Vijay Gupta of Siegwerk India

Mostly, most of us do not think. We tend to repeat cliches and slogans that put us in a helpless situation in which we are always waiting for the other guy (or the government) to do something. Thus it was refreshing to talk to Vijay Gupta who admitted that industry has to lead on environment, health and safety issues. Well some of you might say Gupta or the ink company he leads has a ‘vested interest’ in talking about environment – that he wants to sell more expensive ink. Well you would be wrong.

First of all, many of you already happily buy his ink and indeed inks from the other excellent ink companies who have state of the art plants within India – DIC, Sakata, Huber-Micro, Flint, Toyo and others. All of these companies manufacture safer and more environmentally friendly inks than we generally buy in India. Unfortunately neither packaging buyers are insisting on greener and safer inks, nor is the government able to go into the entire gamut of complex technical, social and administrative issues which it needs to address to come up with a total cradle to grave packaging life-cycle program. The industry associations are also on the defensive about issues which are indefensible instead of coming up with a plan or a solution in which the end-users, the packaging converters, the suppliers of equipment and consumables and the government can apply their creativity and their extensive assets.

Secondly, come out of your denial of facts. Stop denying that we do every day does not have intense environmental, health and safety implications. Packaging uses the overwhelming majority of paper, paperboard, plastics and films consumed in India. Fact – The Indian packaging industry will use more than 7.5 million tonnes of paper and paperboard and more than 5 million tonnes

of plastics and films in the 2010-2011 financial year (source: IppStar Indian Print Industry Survey 2011 In comparison to the rest of the world this is not a huge amount in per capita terms. This is precisely why we could be one of the greenest packaging industries and countries in the world. But take a look at the garbage strewn everywhere; at the lack of separation of various waste materials; at the almost total absence of collection and waste recycling systems.

Thirdly, act now. Use sustainable materials as much as you can. Convince your customers to lightweight and to use materials that can be separated for recycling. When environmentally friendly fountain solution concentrates and recycling systems are available in India why not use them? When process-less or low chemistry plates are available, why not use them? When low-chemistry processing and recycling systems are available why not use them? When low solvent inks are available in India why not use them? When solvent recovery systems are available why not use them? When sustainable forest sourced paper and paperboard is available why not offer to use these at least for customers who can be pursuaded? And then no matter what materials you are using right from the oil for the lubrication of your machines to your film and plate chemistry to the water for dampening solutions – these are the wastes in your factory and it is your responsibility to reuse, recycle and reduce these – to treat and ultimately dispose these not in some drain or nala but responsibly. There is a lot you can do and are already doing. Speak out and send me an email about what you are doing at

- Naresh Khanna

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Informative!