United States
                    Environmental Protection
                         Pollution Prevention
                         and Toxics
EPA 744-F-95-006
Februarv 1996
Design  for  the  Environment
Flexography  Project
        U.S. EPA
  What Is Design for the
  The Design for the
  Environment (DfE) Program
  harnesses EPA's expertise and
  leadership to facilitate informa-
  tion exchange and research on
  risk reduction and pollution
  prevention opportunities. DfE
  works with both large and
  small businesses on a volun-
  tary basis, and its cooperative
  projects attempt to:
  • Work with specific industries
    to evaluate the risks, perfor-
    mance, and costs of alterna-
    tive chemicals, processes,
    and technologies.
  • Change general business
    practices to incorporate
    environmental concerns.
  • Help individual businesses
    undertake environmental
  •  design efforts through the
    application of specific tools
    and methods.
  DfE partners include:
  • industry
  • Professional Institutions
  • Academia
  • Environmental and  Public
    Interest Groups
  • Other Government Agencies
                                Focusing  on
                                Flexo  Inks
            More than 1,600 printers in the United States
            use flexographic presses. These presses can be
            found in facilities ranging from small (less than
            10 employees) to large (200 to 300 employees). Flexography is primari-
            ly used for printing on consumer packages or labels made of paper, cor-
            rugated, and plastic films. In addition, some consumer and commercial
            products have parts that are produced oh flexographic presses.

            Flexography involves printing from a raised image on a printing plate
            made from either rubber or photopolymers with highly fluid, quick-
            drying inks. The ink is applied to the raised portion of the plate, and
            the image is transferred by the plate to a substrate (e.g., paper, film,
            or board). The inks used for flexography are liquid and contain sol-
            vents or water.  Selection of inks is critical to meeting the quality and
            performance requirements for a wide variety of. substrates with vary-
            ing printing parameters.

            The conventional inks used for flexography consist of solvents made
            of volatile organic  compounds (VOCs), which can pose risks to  .
            human health and to the environment. For this reason, they are regu-
            lated as air pollutants and hazardous materials. The VOCs in conven-
            tional inks contribute to ozone  pollution and can adversely affect, air
            quality. These inks also can have potentially detrimental effects
            when disposed  of improperly.

            The flexography industry has been evaluating and adopting alterna-
            tives to the conventional ink formulations in an effort to find cleaner
            .and safer materials for printing images. The industry's efforts in this
            area have included evaluating waterborne and UV-cured inks, as well
            as press modifications and add-on controls. Adopting these technolo-
            gies can reduce the potential for pollution, eliminate or reduce air
            emissions, and prevent the generation of hazardous wastes and other  .
            discharges. There are technical and environmental advantages and dis-
            advantages associated with each of these technologies, however. These
            advantages and disadvantages might affect product quality, production
            efficiency, and energy usage, or involve the transfer of pollution from
            one medium to another, transfer of waste streams, retraining facility
            personnel, and modification or replacement of existing equipment.

            The Design for the Environment (DfE) Flexography Project is a unique
            voluntary(effort between the flexographic printing industry and the
            U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that seeks to provide
            information about the advantages and disadvantages associated with
            solvent, waterborne, and UV-cured flexographic ink technologies. The
            project will assess  the performance, costs,  environmental and human

                                 )printed on paper that contains at least 20 percent postconsumer fiber.

health risks/ and pollution prevention effects associ-
ated with these technologies. DfE's goal in working
with flexographic printers is to help them make
more informed choices now and in the future by eas-
ing the search for and evaluation of cleaner process-
es, products, and technologies.
How DM the DIE  DfE ^ workms ™&
  -a      n   - ~*   printing industry in 1992,
Printing Project   when the Printing Industries of
Get Started?      America (PIAJ requested EPA's
                    assistance in evaluating envi-
ronmental claims for products. This effort ultimately
grew into projects aimed at preventing pollution in
three sectors of the industry: lithography, screen
printing, and flexography. Each project addresses a
different area of concern within  the printing indus-
try, For lithography the focus is  on blanket washes;
for screen printing the focus is on screen reclama-
tion; and for flexography the project partners chose
to look at the types of inks used. DfE flexography
partners  include the California Film Extruders and
Converters Association (CFECA), the Flexible
Packaging Association (FPA), the Flexographic
Technical Association (FTA), the Industrial
Technology Institute (ITI), the National Association
of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), the Plastic
Bag Association (PBA), RadTech International, N.A.,
the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST), the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute,
Inc.  (TLMI), the University of Tennessee, Western
Michigan University, and individual printers and
What IS thfi
                    T*16 DJEE flexography project has
                    t*1*66 key activity areas: techni-
                    Cfll sKai^B8t implementation
                    tools, and outreach activities.
 Technical Studies
 The DfE Flexography Project is focusing its efforts on
 developing- specific risk, performance, cost, pollution
 prevention, and process requirement information on
 conventional and alternative ink technologies in
 order to help flexographic printers make more
 informed decisions about the ink technologies that
 they use in their facilities.

 The project is examining the environmental and
 human health risks of solvent-based, waterborne, and
 UV-curable ink technologies. The project is collecting
 information on hazards and environmental releases
 (i.e., releases to air, water, or land), energy consump-
 tion, and solid and hazardous wastes associated with
 the use of each technology. With this information,
 the project will assess the risks to human health and
 the environment posed by each of these flexographic
 ink technologies.
The performance of each ink technology will be
evaluated in two ways: 1) by a laboratory under
controlled conditions; and 2) by printers under real-
world conditions of production. The information
collected in the performance demonstration will be
used to develop cost data for each ink technology. In
addition, the DfE Flexography Project will identify
workplace practice changes, pollution prevention
options, and other steps that printers can implement
to better utilize each ink technology.

Information on the comparative risk, performance,
cost, and pollution prevention opportunities associat-
ed with these ink technologies will be included'in
the DfE Flexography Project's full technical report,
the Flexographic Inks Cleaner Technologies
Substitutes Assessment (CTSA). The draft CTSA is
scheduled to be released for comment in 1996.

Implementation Tools
In an effort to, encourage pollution prevention in the
flexography sector of the printing industry, the DfE
Flexography Project will create a variety of technical
assistance tools for flexographic printers. For exam-
ple, plans are in place to develop computer software
that can help flexographic printers assess the prof-
itability of pollution prevention investments using
total cost assessment techniques. DfE is also plan-
ning to conduct pilot workshops for flexographic
printers on how to use the software.

Outreach Activities
The project will create different  informational materi-
als based on the CTSA. The project partners will pro-
duce a simple, concise brochure to explain to printers
the results of the technical work. A series of case
studies also will be developed to help flexographic
printers sort through some of the different factors
that can make one ink technology a more attractive
option than another. These and  other products will be
available on the Internet, making the information
developed by the DfE Flexography Project easily
accessible to printers and the general public.
                                                     How Can I Get More Information?

                                                     To learn more about the Flexography Project or
                                                     EPA's Design for the Environment Program, contact:

                                                     EPA's Pollution Prevention Information
                                                       Clearinghouse (PPIC)
                                                     U.S. Environmental Protection
                                                     401 M Street, S.W. (3404)
                                                     Washington, DC 20460
                                                     Tel: 202 260-1023
                                                     Fax: 202 260-0178