The environmental benefits of water-based inks for screen printing
Screen printing is a popular method for creating vibrant designs on various surfaces, but traditionally relied on solvent-based inks. However, the growing demand for eco-friendly alternatives has paved the way for the emergence of water-based, solvent-free inks.
In this article, we will explore the many environmental benefits of using water-based inks for screen printing and shed light on why they are now the preferred choice for eco-conscious businesses and artists.
What are water-based inks for screen printing?
Water-based inks are formulated primarily with water as the solvent, in contrast to solvent-based inks that use volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as mineral turpentine, as their base. Some solvent-free inks are designed specifically for screen printing applications and offer several significant advantages over traditional solvent-based inks.
Water-based inks vs other types of screen printing inks
When comparing water-based inks to other types of screen printing inks, such as solvent-based, plastisol and low VOC inks, it becomes clear that there are numerous environmental benefits of using water-based inks.
Solvent-based inks release harmful VOCs into the atmosphere during the printing process, contributing to air pollution, Greenhouse gas (GHG) evolution, thus posing health risks to both workers and the environment. Plastisol inks may be solvent free, but are PVC-based and contain harmful phthalates, which can leach into the ecosystem. In comparison, water-based inks provide a much safer and greener alternative.
The first thing you’ll notice about water-based inks is the lack of overpowering smell. From this obvious feature derives a range of health benefits. Water-based inks are formulated using non-toxic materials, making them safer for both the screen printers and the consumers. Unlike solvent-based or plastisol inks that contain hazardous chemicals, water-based, eco-friendly inks do not pose the same risks of skin irritation, respiratory issues, endocrine disruptors in the environment or long-term health effects. This makes water-based inks ideal for printing on garments, especially those intended for infants, children, or individuals with respiratory, skin or allergenic sensitivities.
2. Reduced volatile organic content (VOC)
A significant advantage of water-based inks is the low VOC, both of the ink and the clean-up process. Solvent based and plastisol inks contribute significant environmental impact as they either contain VOCs, need solvents for clean-up or both. VOCs are typically chemical compounds that are designed to evaporate into the atmosphere, contributing first to poor air quality in the workplace, to the formation of ground-level ozone and to air pollution. With water-based inks, screen printers significantly reduce the VOC emissions from their workplace or studio and thus minimise the adverse impact on air quality, on human health and on the environment.
3. Minimal harzardous waste
Compared to solvent-based inks, water-based inks generate minimal hazardous waste. Since water is the primary solvent in the formulation, any ink residue or cleanup water can be easily treated and filtered before being safely disposed of or reused. This form of sustainable screen printing reduces the overall environmental impact and greatly simplifies waste management processes.
4. Biodegradable ink
Water-based inks are much more likely to be biodegradable, compostable or both, meaning that they can break down naturally over time without causing harm to the environment. When disposed of correctly, water-based inks do not contribute to the accumulation of non-biodegradable waste in landfills or waterways. This aligns with the principles of a circular economy and supports sustainable waste management practices.
Why are the environmental benefits important?
The environmental benefits offered by water-based inks are crucial in the context of promoting sustainability and reducing the ecological impact of screen printing.
As businesses and individuals become more aware of the importance of environmental conservation, choosing an eco-friendly alternative like water-based, solvent-free inks can make a significant difference. By adopting water-based inks, screen printers can:
Demonstrate their commitment to sustainability: Using water-based inks allows businesses to showcase their dedication to reducing their environmental impact.
Protect the health of workers: Water-based inks eliminate or significantly reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals and VOCs, safeguarding the health and well-being of screen printing professionals and hobbyists by creating or maintaining a much safer working environment.
Comply with environmental regulations: Many countries and/or regions have introduced strict regulations concerning VOC emissions, workplace air quality standards and hazardous waste disposal. By using water-based inks, screen printers can ensure compliance with these regulations, avoiding potential reengineering costs, fines or penalties and maintaining a responsible business operation.
Contribute to a sustainable future: Embracing water-based inks aligns with the broader goal of building a sustainable future.
As the demand for eco-friendly products and practices continues to grow, screen printers can make a positive impact by embracing water-based, non-toxic inks and contributing to a more sustainable future.
If you’re ready to make a positive change and experience the environmental benefits of water-based inks for screen printing, check out Colormaker’s range of PERMASET and PERMAPRINT Premium water-based inks for a wide range of substrates. Our water-based, biodegradable inks are specifically designed to provide vibrant and durable prints while minimising their impact on the environment.