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Europe: Study finds water-based inks are healthy for the planet

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Water-based resins for inks and adhesives in flexible packaging are found to be an economically compatible and environmentally-friendly alternative to solvent-based technologies.

This is the result of an Eco-Efficiency Analysis conducted by BASF and based on previous Eco-Efficiency Analysis for water-based printing inks for flexible packaging in 2009, as well as data from a recent EEA for adhesives in 2016.

The study considered environmental categories of the final product and its raw materials (cradle-to-grave) ranging from climate change and resource depletion to water over-fertilization.

The BASF Eco-Efficiency methodology was validated by NSF International while the results of the study were critically reviewed by DEKRA as an independent third party.

The outcome of the EEA demonstrates that water-based inks and adhesives lead to a higher eco-efficiency than solvent-based inks and adhesives.

The main driver of environmental differences among the alternatives is the production of inks and solvents.

The analysis showed that solvent-based inks and adhesives perform worse in all impact categories that is mainly due to the environmental impact related to the production of the organic solvent for use in the printing process, ink raw materials and adhesive production.

Furthermore, the EEA demonstrates that a shift from solvent-based inks and adhesives to water-based technologies will allow a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalents) of up to 15%.

This reduction of the carbon footprint is of increasing importance for brand owners and converters.

Water-based technologies also have a positive impact on health and working place safety.

“As water-based inks and adhesives contain neither organic solvents nor aromatic isocyanates, production risks are reduced to a minimum,” says Ulf Neidlein, VP business management resins & additives Europe.

Reducing cost

The results of the EEA reveal that solvent-based inks and adhesives have the highest overall costs, due to a high volume of required solvents.

“Conversion to water-based systems will result in reduced investment and maintenance costs since solvent incineration or recovery will not be required anymore,” says Jürgen Pfister, VP dispersions for adhesives & fiber bonding Europe.

“Furthermore, the overall production time for our customers can be significantly reduced with water-based adhesives as converters can laminate and deliver within one day.”