How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in Screen Printing•
In honor of Earth Day 2019, we wanted to give you some ways you can become more environmentally friendly in your shop! Simple changes can make a big difference in the long run. Below are a few "green" pointers on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle in screen printing.
Keep in mind how much of a product you are using, and how much of the product you actually need to use. Some printers tend to go crazy with pallet adhesives, emulsion, and degreasers. These products are often overused in print shops. Try testing with smaller amounts of product— if it doesn't affect your print quality, then you are saving supplies and money!
Another way to reduce waste is to ensure your ink is stored in proper conditions so it has a longer shelf life. Most manufacturers have recommendations about storing your ink. A tip is to keep it in a temperature range between 65-90°F. Keep it our of direct sunlight, and always take stir sticks out of your bucket when you close it up.
Next time you run a job and have extra ink on your screens, don't just scoop it into the trash. Scrape the excess ink back into its bucket so you can use it another time. Otherwise, some shops take the last of an bucket's ink and discard it into a bucket. You can mix and match all sorts of leftover inks until the bucket is full. Then you just mix up the mismatched inks and you'll yield a brown or grey which you can use for another project. This could be a good way to advertise an "eco-friendly" shirt since you reduced your ink waste!
Say you are trying a new technique or are working with new ink and you completely mess up a shirt. Don't toss it in the trash! You can still use the shirt for test printing, or cut it up and use it as a rag. Pro tip: cotton shirts are especially durable and make for a great shop rag.
Aside from all the inks, shirts, and chemicals that are used, boxes and packaging is heavy in this industry. Make sure all those cardboard boxes are either reused or recycled!
Screen printing is a waste-heavy process. Since there are so many chemicals and inks that are involved, it's important everything is disposed of properly. Plastisol inks must be cured before discarded, emulsion has to be dried, and solvent soaked rags must be evaporated. A rule of thumb is to be aware of your municipality's rules and regulations regarding the disposal of your products.
Are the products going down your drain suppose to be going down there? Investing in an efficient water filtration system will greatly reduce your impact. A water recirculation system would be beneficial for your water use also. Why waste water when you could reuse the same filtered water over and over again!
Going back to the misprinted shirt, if you don't want to cut it into rags or use it for test prints, donate it. Many cities have collection facilities where you can drop shirts off for recycling. If the print looks decent, you can drop it off at a thrift store for a thrifty shopper to wear and adore.