Author: Lena Barner-Rasmussen

Sustainable printed advertising

As brands owners and retailers are looking for ways to fulfill their sustainability ambitions, few eye in the materials on which their advertising is displayed in shopping malls and outdoors. Switching to more sustainable materials could make a big difference.

We are surrounded by ads, both indoors and outdoors. Most of these displays still use PVC as print media. Its popularity is understandable: it’s a versatile printing substrate for the graphic sign and display market as it’s inexpensive, printable with multiple ink technologies, easy to weld or stitch, and offers high tear-resistance with long outdoor durability.

“European usage of PVC-banners is estimated to be over 300 million square meters”, says Luk Meys, Global Category Manager, Imaging at Walki.

But it comes with some hazards, both to humans and our planet alike. Old banners need to be disposed of. When incinerated, the PVC content emits toxic dioxin and hydrogen chloride gas, and the ash can contain heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. Some countries still allow for banners to be put in landfills, risking toxic chemical additives to migrate into our biosphere.

Recycling is the obvious go-to solution. However, this poses some challenges when the banner is not a mono-material, and hence hard to recycle. There is the option of chemical recycling, that is, to convert the waste into its chemical components through pyrolysis, hydrolysis and heating. But it is currently very expensive and energy-intensive. So you are left with the option of abandoning PVC altogether.

“If the graphics print media industry wants to be sustainable, switching to PVC-free print materials should be the absolute priority”, says Meys.

There are several options to make PVC-free banner alternatives. The optimal solution depends on the circumstances. Walki’s Walki Print media XXL material is based on polyolefin coated nonwoven and is mechanically recyclable. The material is also set to qualify for chemical recycling once that option becomes financially viable.

“The use of plastics will not entirely disappear for advertising banners. But with light weight, PVC-free products you can find alternatives with a low impact on our health and the environment”, concludes Luk Meys.

Want to go deeper? Order our extensive white paper on the health hazards of PVC and different alternatives for advertising sustainably on indoor and outdoor banners.

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