Screen printing is well known as one of the most antique ways of mass printing in history, it was created in China sometime between 960 – 1279 AD when it was used as the main method for printing patterns onto fabrics. Stencils were cut out of paper and the mesh was woven from human hair. Stiff brushes were used to force ink through the mesh onto the fabric. Read our article on the history of screen printing if you would like to discover more about this fascinating technique.
Nowadays, screen printing is still widely used but ethical and ecological matters are commencing to arise. One of them is undoubtedly related to the use of solvents and oil based prints, the other is related to the exceptionally restricted range of suitable materials. Hoesh International ltd has used screen printing since the very beginning of the company, but it is currently in the process of going greener by adopting more sustainable ways of printing. Let’s get a more in depth view on the latest achievements in the research of sustainable fibres and alternative printing techniques.
The issue of solvents and polluting waste products
In the last decade, the main interest in the shopping system has shifted from being centred on the costs to the ecological matters concerning the production of goods. We are currently assisting to the progressive adaptation of modern and every day more advanced technologies which meet the globally growing eco-friendly needs. Eco-friendly is the umbrella term under which any approach committed to be respectful - or at least non-harmful - of the environment can be blended.
But, on a practical manner, what does it really mean for these new methods to be considerate of the environment? One of the current main focuses is on the consumption of more sustainable substitute supports like bamboo or other natural, biodegradable fibres, in order to replace polluting ones. The queen of the latter case certainly is plastic, nonetheless, the list is utterly extensive and comprises solvents, oil based products, concrete, palm oil, farming and so on.
Going back to screen printing, a real alternative to the use of oil based varnishes is thermal paper roll printing, a technique that our company has recently adopted and it is planning to completely convert the full production to. The motivation to amend our means is lead by our aim to minimise our environmental footprint. We are now implementing the use of PVC free print and recyclable paper moving towards a zero emissions printing system.
Up-to-date research for sustainable fibres
Data shows that consumers are now abandoning non-conscious shopping, even when that means employing a bit longer in researching the right product or even paying a bit extra money for the alternative goods. Although there is no such thing as 100% free-emissions production process, we are now looking for alternative ways to at least reducing our footprint. On this perspective, the world of fabrics is evolving and adapting its means to the fast-paced requirements of the market. So, what are the materials we are currently considering to give an environmentally friendly spin to our screen printing production?
Cotton has been a security for many years, sold as one of the most sustainable sources for fabric production. Is it still the case? Unfortunately, the increasing demand of this rather versatile fibre has lead to the necessity of employing wider plots of land hence larger emissions. It is then fundamental to check your sources, if you decide to opt for cotton. Make sure it comes from controlled cultivations and it is a pure, organic product originated from GMO-plants.
The most recent revolution comes from the use of bamboo pulp to generate a strong and lightweight fibre. These very resistant plants are considered sustainable as they do not require herbicides or pesticides to thrive, nor they need replanting as they regenerate from their own roots. The fabric obtained from bamboo is also utterly durable, ideal for printing with softer inks. Always watch out for controlled sources as the majority of the bamboo is cultivated in China, where regulations on intensive harvesting may be lacking.
These are only two examples of the new direction that screen printing has taken in matter of sustainable fabrics. We are keeping ourselves busy finding the most up-to-date, innovative solutions to help us convert our production into an environmentally friendly process.