Why Aren’t Traditional Inks Earth-Friendly Like Soy Ink?

Apr 04

Over the years, soy-based inks have become an ideal replacement for the traditional petroleum-based inks. Many consumers have a hard time comparing these two ink technologies, especially when it comes to the cost, efficiency, and environmental impact that each type of ink offers.

Understanding the Traditional Petroleum-based Inks

Petroleum-based ink was introduced about half a century ago, with the main benefit being the low cost of printing, and reduced time required for printed material to dry. These features proved beneficial for many industries, especially newsprint, since it enabled the printers to produce large volumes on a daily basis. However, it was discovered that these inks posed a serious challenge: Environmental pollution.

Crude oil or petroleum is a non-renewable natural resource, which requires drilling in order to extract it from the earth. In addition, crude oil requires a series of processes such as refining and separation before it can be converted into consumer products such as printing ink.

The Environmental Impact of Using Petroleum-based Inks
Extraction: The process of drilling and extracting crude oil devastates the environment. A good example is the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which had far-reaching implications on plant and marine life. The cleanup of this disaster had a heavy cost, not just in terms of the procurement and use of materials like perlite, silica gel, and more, and labor, but also in terms of the loss of resources and opportunities for the coastal industry. In addition, the refining and separation processes, which are meant to make crude oil usable, release various toxic chemical compounds into the environment. These pollutants can contaminate water sources, affect air quality, and contribute to global warming.

Volatile Organic Compounds: Even after crude oil processing is complete, the process of manufacturing petroleum-based inks also emits a wide variety of pollutants, which are commonly referred to as volatile organic compounds.

Recycling: The process of recycling paper printed with petroleum-based inks is quite difficult and expensive, owing to the energy-intensive process that is required to de-ink the paper.

The Benefits of Soy-Based Inks vs. Traditional Inks
Soy ink is among the commonly used vegetable-based ink technologies, which was introduced to address the many environmental challenges posed by petroleum-based inks. Below is a brief look at some of the benefits.

Cost-Effectiveness: Soy inks are more cost effective, compared to traditional inks. First, soybean oil requires minimal refinement in order to be used in the production of printing ink. In addition, soybean oil is extracted from vegetables, which ensures a constant supply. This is unlike petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource, and thus susceptible to fluctuations in availability and price.

Biodegradability: Soy ink is more biodegradable compared to petroleum inks. The variety of resins, pigments, waxes, and other additives may prevent the inks from breaking down completely. However, soy inks have proved more environmentally friendly and pose minimal health risks.

Enhanced Printing Efficiency: Soy inks offer faster drying times and thus, allow for faster printing. In addition, the inks are rub-resistant, meaning that consumers can enjoy a smudge-free printing experience.

Vibrant Colors: Soy ink technologies offer more vivid and brighter colors when printing. Coupled with the faster printing and drying times, consumers can enjoy better quality printing, in addition to reducing the time and cost required for printing.