Here’s an interesting story on soy ink and why it’s so popular today — as we often discuss with respect to solar and wind energy, being green isn’t good enough for a lot of people, but being cheap and green is:
Everyone is surrounded by printed products on a daily basis, but rarely do we stop to think about how the text and images made their way onto the page. Obviously, it required some type of ink, but this is where things can get complicated. In the late 1970s, the Newspaper Association of America started recognizing the increasing costs of petroleum-based inks and wanted an alternative. As researchers explored different plant-based options, the best alternative turned out to be soy ink made from soybean oil. Today, about 25 percent of the commercial printing in the United States uses soy ink. Printing with soy-based ink has turned out to be hugely successful, but soy ink also happens to be better for the environment. Here are five ways that it is:
1. Soy Ink is Renewable
One of the biggest environmental issues is whether something can be used for the long term. Some manufactured goods, such as petroleum products, require inputs with a limited supply. These goods might be okay in the short term, but inevitably they will run out at some point in the future. Soy ink, of course, relies on a compound that can be grown and replenished indefinitely — soy oil.
2. Soy is Less Costly to Grow Than Other Alternatives
Other alternatives to soy ink do exist that are also renewable, by relying on other types of plant oils, for example. One of the distinct advantages of soy beans, however, is that the agricultural costs are so low. Soy beans require relatively small amounts of irrigation and fertilizers. Not only are these low costs an advantage for farmers, but they also minimize the load on the environment.
3. Soy Ink is Biodegradable
Almost everything you use will need to be processed as trash at some point. The biggest question is whether it is designed in a way to make disposal easier on the environment. Because soy ink is based on naturally grown soy oil, it can degrade more than four times faster than petroleum-based inks. This simply means that the full life cycle of soy ink is shorter and the total load on the environment is far less.
4. Less Soy Ink is Required for the Same Amount of Print Outs
Soy ink is increasingly being used in large-scale commercial applications, and is now available from environmentally conscious sources. Many professional printers discover that soy ink lasts longer for the same amount of printing, cutting down on the total amount of printer ink they need. This simply means that less ink needs to be manufactured, saving energy costs and the environmental costs of the pigments and other additives to the ink. It also means that there is less ink to be dealt with in trash disposal. Less ink produced, used, and thrown away is always positive for the environment.
5. Soy Ink is Easier to Remove When Recycled
Paper recycling always involves washing out or removing ink so that the paper will be clean and bright for the next use. Soy ink is much easier to remove than the equivalent petroleum-based products. Not only does this mean that the resulting recycled paper is higher quality, but it even helps lower the costs of the entire recycling process. As a result, soy ink is an important example of how our society must reorganize for sustainability. Environmentally responsible manufacturing and consumption requires that we become aware of the entire life cycle of our products. When consumer products are designed and manufactured with environmentally friendly disposal in mind, the total ecological load becomes much smaller. Soy ink represents this kind of wise planning.