Recycle At Your Cost

medium_Laurel.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

We all know that recycling is the way to go if we are to preserve our planet’s natural resources. But are we all fully on board with what it will cost to do so? Our concept of commercial success is profit and all too much effort goes into maximising it without necessarily appreciating that the bottom line isn’t the only line we should not cross. Perhaps it’s time for some renewed thinking on the nature of success and profitability?

A number of companies serving the printing and publishing industry have already recognised this. The cynic would say that selling presses as carbon neutral is just a gimmick to get the manufacturer’s foot in the door, a salve to the printing companies wracked with guilt about waste and dead trees. Manufacturers and printers alike should understand and promote the fact that print is sustainable so no guilt applies. Their critics should also understand that whatever the motivation for offering carbon neutral products, doesn’t matter as long as said products are available, and their carbon neutrality is based on transparent and tangible fact. The journey towards understanding the importance of balancing commitment to the environment with a company’s profitability is long.

Few companies have been on that journey as long as Ricoh which recently introduced the 9002 series of office printers, MFPs, made using a new form of recycled steel provided by Tokyo Steel. The steel sheets are made in electric furnaces entirely from scrap metal, but in a world first these sheets behave in the same way as steel made from virgin ore roasted in traditional blast furnaces. They can be shaped in the same way and behave as conventional steel sheets do. The only difference could be in their appearance, as Ricoh describes them as having “appealing surface characteristics” which could mean anything.

But the point is that this stuff must be more expensive than virgin blast-furnace steel, if only because of economies of scale. And in this economic climate if Ricoh wants to remain competitive, the company can only push so far the costs onto customers. The underlying message is that companies are increasingly willing to compromise profitability in order to build up a new form of capital, in the form of environmental commitment and credibility.

We hope to see other companies serving the graphic arts following a similar path.

– Laurel Brunner

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