Packaging for a Net Zero world: Where does pre-press fit into the equation?

11 Sep 2023

What will the print and packaging industry look like five years from now? How about ten?

One of the most challenging aspects of the packaging industry is how quickly sweeping cross-market trends can change and evolve. As an industry that’s ultimately powered by shifting consumer demands, brands and their printing partners must be able to adapt rapidly, while also embracing bigger picture long-term change.

In a retail market where environmental concerns are driving consumer choices like never before, sustainability has become the lifeblood of brands and the packaging industry they rely on. Further, with incoming regulations such as the UK Government Competition & Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code, designed to reduce harmful greenwashing that damages consumer trust, it’s clear that the label and packaging supply chain must get serious on matters of sustainability.

Adding more depth to the packaging sustainability conversation, it’s no longer just about the materials used or end-of-life disposal, it encompasses the entire packaging supply chain from end to end. As Net Zero targets and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation loom on the horizon, a new age of carbon-aware reprographics is poised to shape the future of packaging and label sustainability.


Responding to rising consumer awareness

Shoppers are no longer content with vague notions of sustainability; they want concrete actions and tangible results. Greenwashing, which is often defined as distorted or exaggerated environmental claims, or otherwise presented out of context, has run the risk of turning the term sustainability from a sincere movement designed to protect the earth’s precious resources, into little more than marketing buzz.

However, consumers are getting better informed and technical terms like PCR, rPET, PET, and HDPE are now becoming familiar to shoppers who are actively seeking more environmentally-sensitive products. Putting this into a commercial context, a study by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that 74% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. The demand for sustainable solutions presents a golden opportunity for brands to foster a deeper connection with today’s more eco-conscious customers.


Thinking upstream; beyond material innovation

When it comes to circularity, substrate innovation is undoubtedly essential. However, with end-to-end operations in focus and sustainability measured as a connected whole, brands must also recognise the significance of sustainability upstream in the supply chain.

Powered by remarkable technological progress, packaging and label converters can access technologies to build more resource-efficient production processes, this of course includes the vital pre-press and origination phases.

Creation, as a dedicated prepress partner to packaging and label printers, stands out as a prime example of how reducing the environmental impact of packaging begins long before the first print rolls off the press. Creation offers a full suite of services to printers and converters, such as colour management tools to enhance precision and reduce waste, and digital workflows that boost speed on artworking and approvals, dramatically reducing the risk of print re-runs through errors.

The importance of thinking upstream in addition to substrate innovation is clear; every step of the label and packaging supply chain is a valuable opportunity to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging.


Embracing water-washable flexo technology

Another significant gear-change for packaging and label production lies in cutting solvents out of the pre-press equation. While industry standard for a long time, VOC washout from solvents can pose an environmental risk, as well as a hazard to print operatives.

Fortunately, label and packaging printers can access solvent-free pre-press with innovations such as the Fujifilm Flenex-FW flexo plates, supplied by Creation. Challenging the notion that printers must choose between sustainability and performance, these plates not only eliminate harmful solvents and VOC washout from pre-press, but also improve overall quality, accuracy, speed and registration during long print runs.

With benefits that include enhanced ink transfer for superior coverage, precise registration, job-to-job consistency, and a significant reduction in plate production time compared to solvent-reliant counterparts, Creation is helping printers of every size to make the switch.

Further driving the advantages home, Fujifilm Flenex-FW plates are produced at reduced temperature, requiring less overall energy in this regard and ensuring stability, on-press performance and sustainability can go hand in hand.


A fresh look at prepress

Pre-press and reprographics set the standard of print, and excellence begins before a single press is fired up. As such, we cannot underestimate the power of bringing in responsible prepress solutions from the outset.

While the pressure may be on for printers as demand for meaningful sustainability soars and legislation draws nearer, the packaging world must stand united in its commitment to environmental consideration.

With a prepress partner like Creation in their corner, printers can access a brand-new toolbox that underpins quality, while contributing to business-wide sustainability targets.

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