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Toxins in Printing Ink

by Gage Mitchell | Jun 14, 2011 | DesignSustainability

Metallic ink is sleek, sexy, and catches your eye when used on super cool packaging. An easy and almost guaranteed way to make your product feel high end and luxurious which helps justify that higher price point. But what happens to that sexy package when it gets thrown away or recycled?

Sadly, these cool metallic inks have the highest proportions of metals which may be harmful when they accumulate in the waste stream. Fluorescent inks and certain spot colors also contain potentially toxic metals. Some sources do say, however, that the levels currently in the stream are not high enough to cause serious damage to human or wildlife health. Well I say it’s like a drop in a bucket that will someday overflow. Do we really want to keep inflicting small amounts of damage until it someday adds up to a really big problem? Heck no.

So what do we do? Avoid the problem colors and wait for the industry to produce non-toxic alternatives? Not a bad idea. Some chemical companies are working on better inks as we speak, for instance the Pantone Goe color system replaces the toxic pigment Red Lake c with a safer Yellow Shade Napthol – a good start.

As technology continues to change we need to keep up with latest data and make the best decisions we can at that time. For now, we at Modern Species will do our part to keep nasty metals and chemicals out of your water.

A few resources: on Ink on Metallics in the Waste Stream
Green Graphic Design a book by Brian Dougherty

Gage Mitchell is the Principal / Creative Director at Modern Species. For more posts from him, click here.

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Every profession bears the responsibility to understand the circumstances that enable its existence.- Robert Gutman