Edigráfica: Reducing waste and costs
Eco-labels and certifications have become non-negotiable requirements for the printing industry. EDIGRÁFICA, a Brazilian graphic arts company, which got certified with ISO 14 000, decided to implement a life-cycle approach, with the support of the UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. The company significantly reduced its paper waste and related costs, while integrating a life cycle vision within the company’s culture.
EDIGRÁFICA is a graphic arts company located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offering a broad portfolio of products. It produces books, magazines and inserts, and is a commercial unit of the Ediouro group. It addresses the needs of the Ediouro publishing area, for the national market as well as for the foreign market, both of which increased over time.
Sustainability and the printing industry
Businesses from the graphic arts and printing sector need to ensure compliance with environmental legislation. Clients’ sustainability policies generally include criteria and guidelines concerning printing documents, with which printing companies need to comply. Stepping ahead of those requirements is essential to be competitive on the market, together with prices.
In that perspective, EDIGRÁFICA adopted continuous improvement practices associated with the incorporation of new technologies aligned with the nature of their business. To minimize its impacts on the environment, the company developed the programme “Preserve in 2012”, which covers several environmental projects. It aims at continuous improvement, especially of the company’s Environmental Management System.
EDIGRÁFICA adopted ISO 14001 and implemented the Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle. The company attained FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, which ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. It also uses materials from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
Paper is a major issue for the environmental impact for all printing companies, especially regarding water and deforestation. Parallel to the cost of this raw material, discarded paper products is a loss of revenue, and certified third-party firms collecting waste paper generate extra costs.
The environmental legislation requiring that all companies from the printing industry provide documentation of proper disposal of their waste, EDIGRÁFICA had general information about the total quantity waste it generated. But there was no information available about what specific processes, or what stage in the value chain, had generated this waste. As the company decided to engage in a life cycle approach, the challenge was to make a life cycle inventory, and allocate the waste to their respective production processes.
A first assessment was conducted, based on the Life Cycle Management Capability Maturity Model (LCM CMM) developed by the UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. This assessment identified opportunities for integrating life cycle practices into the company’s Environmental Management System.
Due to the lack of life cycle vision identified in the management team, the recommendation was to first focus on the internal production and management, with a “gate to gate” Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) concerning specially the solid waste generated (i.e., paper).
Building a life cycle vision
Implementing a life cycle approach starts at the strategy level, and at the top of an organisation. Several meetings took place with EDIGRÁFICA’s CEO and environmental analyst. An information workshop was organised to present UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative’s Life Cycle Management – Capability Maturity Model (LCM – CMM) to managers and directors from the production, environmental and financial sectors. This workshop was important to raise their awareness and demonstrate the importance of the project for the company’s management team.
Training workshops were also conducted for the production management and production team, involving the company’s environmental analyst, to explain the concepts of life cycle thinking, and more operational knowledge about Life Cycle Management and Life Cycle Assessment.
Optimizing the life cycle inventory and assessment
Assessing the whole of a company’s production is not always possible, but a hotspots analysis provided a reliable assessment and basis for better-informed decisions.
EDIGRÁFICA product mix is indeed quite large. It was decided to identify products that were the most produced in percentage, and that used the greatest number of existing production processes. 3 types of products were thus selected, which in the assessment were called “Books”, “Magazines 1”, and “Magazines 2”, depending on their production specifications.
By selecting these three products, the study covered more than 95% of the production volume and the use of all machines. The production process of these products were monitored in full. An average number of units produced, waste generated and energy consumed was made for the various processes followed. Working this way allowed an estimation of the impact generated for each of the three types of products.
The results showed that the greater environmental impact is on the “impact categories” of water depletion and agricultural land occupation in particular, then of climate change and fossil depletion. The Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) and Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) also indicated that most of the waste generated was composed by paper that had already been processed. Together with the cast issue, this led the management team to concentrate its efforts in reducing that kind of waste.
Reducing paper waste and saving costs
The most affected type of products was “Books”, with 26% of waste during its production process, then “Magazines 2” generating 12,85% of waste, and “Magazines 1” to 10,70%.
To reduce this paper waste, an identified solution was to reduce the production error margin considered for each process. The margin was thus reduced from 30 to 20 % for “Books”, and from 15 to 10% for “Magazines”. Using this new production error margin, the waste generated was reduced to 15,3 % for the production of “Books”, to 8,10% for “Magazine 2” and to 7,25% for “Magazine 1”.
Beyond this very tangible achievement to reduce waste and costs and improve profitability, this concern for life cycle thinking and with paper waste generation has become part of the production team routine.
With the support of the European Commission