“Conventional” ink has a petroleum base and uses a mixture of water, resins, pigments, and a variety of metals such as barium, copper and zinc. The water waste from the printing press, even when properly disposed of, can leach these toxic metals into the soil and groundwater. Heavy amounts of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are also released during the printing process when using petroleum based inks. VOC’s are a primary cause of headaches and dizziness among printing company employees.
Soy ink is made from soybean oil, pigments, resins and waxes and does not contain all of the heavy metals that petroleum based ink has. During the printing process, a significantly smaller amount of VOC’s are released.
Another benefit of soy based inks is that they produce brighter colors. This is due to the ink’s lighter consistency, which allows it to lay on the paper differently than do petroleum based inks. Soy ink also degrades nearly twice as fast as petroleum based ink, making it easier to de-ink paper during the paper recycling process.
Soy ink is also great for printing full color stationery, as the heating point is much greater than petroleum based ink. What this means is that when you run your stationery printed with soy ink through either your color or black and white laser printer, there is less of a chance that the colors on your stationery will run, fade, or ruin your laser printer by coming off on the rollers. I learned the hard way.
As with all of our blogs, we like to offer both sides of the eco-picture. We at Green Graphics and Printing DO prefer soy ink over petroleum ink. No one in our shop ever gets headaches and we are not leaching toxic fumes and metals into the earth. However, we are also very aware of the fact that only 33% of the soybeans produced in 2008 came from the U.S. Many acres of forest and rainforest in other countries are being cut down in order to provide room for soy bean growing farms, so we are always on the lookout for a product that will be a 100% win for the environment.