Simon Esterson: Has the growing awareness of the climate crisis meant that more clients are asking about sustainability?
Roland Makulla: Absolutely. Over ten years ago, alongside a few committed colleagues, we were pioneering the market for sustainable printing solutions in Germany. There was a lot of explanation and persuasion necessary to get clients and suppliers on board. Nowadays, due to the growing awareness of both the climate and the ecological crisis, the market has changed completely. We no longer have to push the solution into the market: the market started to demand sustainable and climate-neutral products. We have a diverse client base, ranging from international corporations, large and small organisations, NGOs, and eco-pioneers like leading natural cosmetics manufacturers, to creative agencies, designers and artists.
Do you think designers are well informed about what makes sustainable print?
Most clients have a good knowledge of paper and eco labels, but they are often surprised that there is so much more to it: energy consumption, emissions, hazardous substances in consumables, vegetable oil-based printing inks, sustainable finishing and recycling. Due to the growing demand and complexity of the subject we are now offering specific webinars on the topic of sustainable printing.
How is your factory organised?
Our new factory uses 100 per cent renewable / green energy of which we generate about 25 per cent on site using photovoltaic panels and we use waste heat for heating and cooling. We print without IPA (isopropyl alcohol) and ensure that all our standard consumables (ink, toner, varnish/coating, founts, washes) conform to the German Blauer Engel [Blue Angel] eco label. Green printing is standard for us. For digital printing we currently use dry toner-based Ricoh machines: the toner is de-inkable, vegan and also conforms to the Blauer Engel label.
Would you advise a client to avoid finishing processes like lamination?
Not necessarily. Together with the client, we always evaluate the individual requirements of a finished product and then recommend the most suitable and sustainable production and finishing methods. There are foils that can be easily removed during recycling and if lamination improves the durability, quality and thus the life cycle of the product, it also makes the product more sustainable. Even the stringent regulations of the Blauer Engel allow lamination under these circumstances – on book covers, for example.
We look into the environmental impact of material like foils and, if necessary, run further tests in laboratories. Not every foil is acceptable and even so-called ‘eco foils’ can have unexpected and negative side-effects.
The life cycle and recyclability of an end product are important to us. We try to apply this principle for the selection of materials: begin with the end in mind.
Alongside sustainable printing processes you also offer vegan printing …
We actually developed a new standard for vegan printing together with ProVeg (the international food awareness organisation) which enables us to label our vegan printed products with the ‘V’ label.
Does this standard apply to all your work or is it a particular set of materials that you use on vegan jobs only?
As with the Blauer Engel label we ensure that our basic consumables (ink, toner, varnish) are vegan. That enables us to run vegan print jobs through our normal production processes; it means we don’t have to change anything. With paper and glue (which by default are not necessarily vegan) we have a number of materials that qualify for vegan printing, which means they are free of animal ingredients.
What has been the response to this process from clients?
Growing client demand was one of the main reasons we first looked at the subject. When we were able to certify entire print products as vegan, both client response and media coverage were very positive. For example: it makes sense to print a vegan cookbook vegan, too!
Oeding Print, founded in 1797, is a full service litho and digital printing company with about 40 employees, based in Braunschweig, Germany. Oeding was awarded ‘Environmental Printer of the Year’ in the 2021 German Print & Media Awards, and has pioneered vegan printing.