These Pollution Prevention Tips
were identified by the
Flexography Partnership of the
Design for the Environment
(DfE) Program at the U.S.
Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). The Partnership
performed a detailed study
comparing hazards and risks,
safety concerns, and cost and
performance aspects of the three
main flexographic ink systems:
solvent-based, water-based, and
ultraviolet (UV) -cured.  The
complete results of the study,
Flexographic Ink Options: A
Cleaner Technologies Substitutes
Assessment (CTSA), can be
downloaded from the DfE
website (
DFE's Flexo Partners

  California Film Extruders
   and Converters Association

  Film and Bag Federation

  Flexible Packaging Associa-

  Flexographic Technical

  National Association of
   Printing Ink Manufacturers


  RadTech International


  University of Tennessee

  Western Michigan University
Pollution prevention provides
flexographic printers many opportunities
to make  environmental improvements
and create cleaner, more sustainable
operations.  Also known as source
reduction, pollution prevention reduces
or eliminates environmental discharges at
their source - that is, by avoiding their
creation.  Pollution prevention requires
taking active  steps to implement changes
in workplace practices, technology, and
materials - including switching to cleaner
inks and  safer chemicals.  Possible
benefits from pollution  prevention
include cost savings, improved productiv-
ity, better product quality, reduced health
risk concerns to employees, reduced
pressures of regulatory compliance, and
of course reduced environmental im-

A strategy to  prevent pollution should  be
customized to fit each printer's objectives
and production process.  The first step is
to construct a process flow diagram
that identifies each stage of the produc-
tion process.  Once the  inputs and
outputs are identified, waste streams can
be prioritized based on hazard or risk,
and the source of those  waste streams
can be targeted.

Each step in the  printing process offers
opportunities for pollution prevention.
The list that follows  includes some
obvious and not so  obvious suggestions
for reducing environmental effects of
printing operations.  You can probably
implement other good ideas that are
specific to your facility's  operations.
Pollution prevention is an entirely
different approach than pollution
reduction, which uses control
technologies such as oxidizers,
adsorption systems, and permanent
total enclosures to reduce emissions
from flexographic printing opera-
tions. Control options do not
prevent pollution from  being gener-
ated in the first place.  Control
technology can also break down,
and require expensive capital and
maintenance costs.

The pollution prevention pyramid
shows source reduction at the top.
This means that reducing or eliminat-
ing sources of pollution should be
the first and most comprehensive
approach to preventing pollution.
One highly effective pollution
prevention strategy is simply replac-
ing use of a hazardous chemical with
one that shows less risk or hazard.  If
a chemical showing hazards or risk
concerns cannot be eliminated, then
it should be recycled.  If it cannot be
recycled as is, it should  be treated,
and only if none of these options
exist should it be disposed.
      Source Reduction
                                                       August 2002

Pollution prevention opportu-
nities exist throughout the
Flexographic printing process
                                      Use Computers for Proofs and Plates:
                                      Eliminating all proofs and plates enables
                                      printers to skip photographic development
                                      and eliminate the use of darkroom

                                      Switch from Rubber to Photopolymer
                                      Plates: Use of traditional nitric acid baths
                                      to etch designs into metal plates may
                                      generate wastewater that is low in pH and
                                      high in metal content, requiring regulation
                                      under the Clean Water Act.  Photopolymer
                                      plates eliminate this  waste stream as well
                                      as the metal engravings and wastes
                                      generated from the production of conven-
                                      tional  molded rubber plates.
Printing and
                                      Install Enclosed Doctor Blade Chambers:
                                      Enclosed doctor blade chambers reduce
                                      ink evaporation, which results in better
                                      control of ink usage, more consistent
                                      color, and improved performance of the
                                      inks on press. Making this change to an
                                      older press may greatly reduce ink
                                      evaporation, thus minimizing worker
                                      exposure to hazardous chemicals.

                                      Cover Volatile Materials: By keeping all
                                      cans, drums, and open ink fountains
                                      covered, printers can reduce odors and
                                      worker health risk concerns by minimizing
                                      uncaptured volatile organic  compound
                                      (VOC) emissions.

                                      Use  Higher Linecount Anilox Rolls: This
                                      enables printers to apply smaller ink
                                      droplets closer together, to achieve much
                                      finer ink distribution, easier drying, and
                                      potentially faster press  speeds.
                                      Rework Press Return Ink: Reworking
                                      press return ink can increase efficiency,
                                      reduce ink purchases, and reduce hazard-
                                      ous waste if contamination issues can be
                                      addressed.  Ink can be reworked by
                                      blending press return ink with virgin ink
                                      or other press return inks.
Use Computerized Ink Blending:
Software and specialized equipment help
printers  blend ink, reduce surplus ink, and
reuse press return ink.

Print with Four-Color Process: The
limited number of inks in four-color
process  printing can minimize the amount
of mixed colored inks used and eliminate
residues of unusual colors at the end of
each job.  With chambered doctor blade
systems, the  increased use of process
printing  to produce a broad spectrum of
colors has become more easily attainable.

Co-Extrude Colored  Film: Films can be
co-extruded  to have panels of color in a
clear field, which eliminates the need for
heavy coverage with colored ink.

Run Light Colors First: By running lighter
jobs before darker jobs, printers can
reduce the number of clean-ups.

Standardize Repeat Print Jobs: Make-
ready times and waste materials can be
greatly reduced if the press operators
know the anilox roll linecount and cell
volume, the  sequence  of colors applied,
ink  parameters such as pH  and viscosity,
and other set-up  information.

Standardize Anilox Roll Inventory: This
saves time during makeready and reduces

Use Multi-Stage Cleaning: Solvent use
can be reduced by using a  multi-stage
cleaning procedure for the  printing decks.
This procedure reduces solvent  use by
reusing solvents that are otherwise
discarded. Pre-used solvent is used in the
first stage to remove the majority of the
ink. In the second stage, a cleaner but
still  pre-used solvent removes more ink.
In the third stage, clean solvent removes
any remaining  ink.
Install Automatic On-Press Cleaning:
When paired with solvent recovery, on-
press cleaning systems use much less
cleaning solution than hand cleaning,
while also having a very short cycle time.

Clean Anilox Rolls Promptly: Prompt
attention will prevent the inks from setting,
thereby reducing the need for harsh chem-
icals.  Clean rolls also produce more
predictable ink densities, potentially reduc-
ing on-press waste and improving quality.

Use Alternative Methods to Clean
Anilox Rolls: Printers can choose among
many alternatives for cleaning anilox rolls
to reduce or eliminate the need  for
traditional cleaning solvents. These
alternatives use sonic cleaning, dry ice,
lasers, polyethylene beads, and  sodium

RecirculateWarm Press Air: Both so vent-and
water-based printers can significantly
reduce their energy requirements by
recirculating warm air from dryers.
         Throughout  the
         printing process
Use Safer Chemicals: Switching to inks,
cleaning agents, and adhesives that
contain a lower percentage of VOCs and
fewer hazardous air pollutants may reduce
risk concerns to worker health and the

Segregate Hazardous Waste: Segregat-
ing hazardous wastes allows disposal of
pure instead of mixed wastes.  Because
pure wastes  are much easier to treat, they
are not only less expensive to dispose of,
but also require less energy.

Return Containers: Using returnable con-
tainers prevents unnecessary waste gene-
ration and results in additional cost savings.

Track Inventory: Tracking chemica  pur-
chases and disposal can help to maintain
a minimum inventory on the shelf, thus
reducing the amount of materials wasted.
For example, hazardous waste can be
minimized by labeling inks with the date
and  having a "first-in, first-out" rule, i.e.,
rotating the inks so that the oldest inks
are used first.  This avoids disposing of
expired ink as  hazardous waste.  Tracking
systems using bar codes takes inventory
control to an even higher level.
         Making change

Pollution prevention requires commitment
from both management and employees.
While management action is required for
process changes, employees  who are
closest to the process  often are best
placed to identify pollution prevention

Make a  Management Commitment:
Management should establish, communi-
cate, and demonstrate its commitment to
the concept of pollution prevention, to
encourage  company-wide source reduc-
tion in everyday practice.  Management
can assemble pollution prevention teams
of employees, incorporate pollution
prevention  into job responsibilities, and
provide incentives for employees to
prevent pollution.

Train Employees:  Pollution prevention
training for company personnel may
facilitate process changes by educating
workers on  the need for such change.
Training also helps to encourage general
source  reduction and stimulate pollution
prevention  ideas by personne .

Monitor Employee Practices: Periodic
monitoring  helps ensure that source
reduction practices are followed.

Seek Out and  Encourage Employee
Initiatives: Supporting, encouraging, and
actively acknowledging pollution preven-
tion initiatives by company personnel can
stimulate innovative ideas for source
reduction.  This may be especially  benefi-
cial because employees who are closest
to the process are often in the best
position to  recommend change.

Develop an Environmental Manage-
ment System (EMS): An  EMS is a set of
management tools and principles de-
signed  to guide a company to integrate
environmental concerns into its daily
business practices.  See
ems for more information.
Integrated Environmental Manage-
ment Systems Implementation Guide

290 pages, 48 worksheets;
October 2000

This guide has been pilot-tested by
several small businesses that used it
to build an Integrated Environmen-
tal Management System (IEMS) for
their companies. An IEMS inte-
grates worker safety and health
concerns along with environmental
concerns into a company's products,
processes and activities.  An IEMS
also includes the principles and
technical methods of the DfE
Program, which emphasizes
reducing risk to humans and the
environment, along with preventing
pollution and managing resources
wisely. The guide provides clear,
step-by-step guidance on imple-
menting an IEMS in a small
Integrated Environmental
Management Systems Company
Manual Template for Small
Business (EPA 744-R-00-012)

60 pages; December 2000

This document was developed
to help companies document
their IEMS. Written as if it
were the actual manual of a
specific small business, the
template helps companies
understand how to adapt the
procedures to implement and
document an IEMS. It
contains procedures that are
normally documented  as  part
of an ISO 14001-compliant

EPA's Design for the Environ-
ment (DfE) Program is located
within the Economics, Exposure and
Technology Division of EPA's Office
of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.
DfE projects help businesses design
products, processes, and manage-
ment systems that are cost-effective,
cleaner, and safer for workers and the
public. DfE's goals are to:
  Encourage businesses to incorpo-
   rate environmental information
   into their decision criteria, and
  Facilitate continuous environ-
   mental improvement.
To accomplish these goals, DfE and
its partners use several approaches,
including cleaner technology and
life-cycle assessments, environmental
management systems, formulation
improvements, best practices and
green supply-chain initiatives. In
addition to flexography DfE has
forged partnerships with a variety of
industries, such as other types of
printing, the automotive industry,
industrial laundries, and electronics.
For more information about the
DfE program, call 202-564-8780 or
send e-mail to

For additional copies of this or
any DfE document:
  Download them from the DfE
   website at
  Contact the Pollution Prevention
   Information Clearinghouse at
   202-566-0799 or
  Contact the National Service
   Center for Environmental
   Publications at
   telephone: 1-800-490-9198
Pollution  Prevention Checklist
Does your facility .  . .

                                                        YES  NO
           Use Computers for Proofs and Plates            D   D
           Use Photopolymer Plates                       D   D

           Printing and clean-up

           Install Enclosed Doctor Blade Chambers         D   D
           Cover Volatile Materials                        D   D
           Use Higher Linecount Anilox Rolls               D   D
           Rework Press Return Ink                        D   D
           Use Computerized Ink Blending                 D   D
           Print with Four-Color Process                    D   D
           Co-Extrude Colored  Film                       D   D
           Run Light Colors  First                          D   D
           Standardize Repeat Print Jobs                   D   D
           Standardize Anilox Roll Inventory                D   D
           Use Multi-Stage Cleaning                      D   D
           Install Automatic  On-Press Cleaning             D   D
           Clean Anilox Rolls Promptly                     D   D
           Use Alternative Methods to Clean Anilox Rolls    D   D
           Recirculate Warm Press Air                      D   D

           Throughout the printing process

           Use Safer Chemicals                           D   D
           Segregate Hazardous Waste                    D   D
           Return Containers                             D   D
           Track Inventory                                D   D
                                                                   rne environment
                                                         August 2002
                                                         EPA 744-F-02-011