How To Recycle Screen Printing Films
Reducing the Negatives of Film Positives
So, your shop is “going green”, but is it really? As the population of the world expands, our consumption of resources also grows and the importance of Eco-friendly processes and materials becomes ever more important. We all know the negative impact that the improper disposal of chemicals and supplies can have on our environment, and everyone is called to do their part in responsibly limiting the impact of his or her activities. The screen printing industry produces a fair bit of waste, and many printers and shops are faced with the same question; how do you go about properly recycling or disposing your screen printing waste? In the case of most industry specific waste-materials, each item requires different treatment. Aerosol cans, non-drain safe chemicals, old aluminum screens, ripped mesh, and film positives fill shop trash bins more than we’d like to admit, and, while some of this is appropriate to put in the garbage, other items can find new life in the recycle system. Brent Allman from Commonwealth Press, a dedicated and passionate screen printing shop in Pittsburgh, asked himself the same question when he found a pile of boxes filled to the brim with old film positives and no clear instructions on how to dispose of them properly.
Like most screen printing shops, Commonwealth Press had been practicing the art of saving their film positives for re-prints, for years.
“What you may not know is that every job at CWP requires multiple film positives to create the stencil to print your artwork. Early on as a business we would catalog these films in case the customer were to want to rerun the art at a later date. As time passed it became apparent that too much time, effort and resources were being used to preserve the integrity of these films for a very low number of reruns. At that point the decision was made to print new films for all but a small select number of jobs and dispose of the films after the jobs were completed.” Brent wrote in the blog post “Recycling Screen Printing Film Positives” that inspired this article.
“As with many supplies in the Screen Printing Industry our film comes in bulk rolls with no instructions, no recycling stamp and not much for a label. So I got a hold of the manufacturer to find out what the films were constructed from, they told me it was Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, sometimes PETE) with a light coating to accept ink and it was easily recyclable. After talking with a few materials recyclers I found out that no one was going to pay us to take these boxes off our hands. So I turned to the Pittsburgh Public Works Recycling Division for answers. They were very helpful and said they would be more than happy to accept this material with our weekly recycling as long as it was labeled.
We made arrangements for them to accept the unlabeled materials after they were bagged and the bags were labeled with the #1PETE symbol so the sorters would know the contents of the bags. Going forward we were going to have to label each of our films to avoid confusion at the sorting center. I approached our artist and asked him to incorporate the #1PETE recycling symbol into our art template so every film we printed would be easily identifiable and could just be thrown into any recycling container and eventually made into future products.”
It may seem like an small action, but the Commonwealth Press’s commitment to ensuring that their contribution to our industry footprint remains minimal is still a growing mindset. The past few years have seen an ever louder cry for greener practices, Eco-friendly chemicals, and water-based inks by customers and printers alike. Why not take it one step further? Take a look at the rest of your waste-bin’s contents and let us know the solutions you come up with!
To Recycle Film Positives:
- Find a recycler. If they recycle plastic, they recycle #1PETE. It’s the most common and simple plastic to recycle.
- Add a recycling symbol to your art template, or somewhere on all your films. (You can always tape over it for printing)
- Dispose of these films in the proper bin along with other plastic recyclables.