Eco-Libris: The State of Green Printing – An Interview with Deb Bruner of Pinnacle Press

You hear a lot these days that the price of recycled paper is decreasing; is there still a premium you need to pay for printing on recycled paper?

From my experience, which includes over 20 years in publishing as well as approximately 5 years in the paper industry and printing, paper prices are all over the map when it comes to recycled or FSC-certified papers. Whether coated or uncoated, some high pcw sheets are less expensive than lower pcw sheets.

For the most part, there does seem to be a bit of a premium on many eco-friendly papers, but because the availability of such papers has been increasing for several years, the competition has made pricing more competitive. Virgin paper, because it’s made on larger machines and on a larger scale, still remains the less expensive option for the most part.

As has been said many times, greater demand (for eco-friendly stocks) will increase availability and as such drive down prices. Since much of our domestically collected wastepaper fiber is shipped overseas to China and elsewhere, I remain curious as to how that will affect pricing over the long term. When we quote a job, we look at various papers and present our customers with a few options. Sometimes a sheet with 10% pcw will cost more than a sheet with 50% pcw. It’s never clear cut so we have to do our homework in looking for the best priced option.

What are the main issues that prevent more publishers and others who print with Pinnacle to use recycled paper?

Since we offer our cover and jacket stock at price parity with virgin, there is no price issue for publishers, but when we have to special order a paper (for a catalog, for example), some publishers just won’t pay more for a green sheet no matter how small the premium. In today’s economy every penny counts more than ever.

Back in the 1990s (and even earlier) the quality of recycled papers (particularly the brightness levels in coated) would often be an obstacle to using recycled (at least for a majority of designers) but now there are very bright recycled papers on the market and I don’t encounter any quality concerns at all.

I do find that sometimes customers need to be reminded that recycled or FSC papers can be an option for them; some still are on “auto pilot” when it comes to sticking with virgin. They have a “workhorse” sheet and just don’t think outside the box.

Does Pinnacle print on demand? If so, do we see a growing demand for POD in comparison with the “regular” printing model?

Yes, we do 4/c POD and short-run work on our Indigo Presses. We do see an increase in using this technology, and part of that comes from our efforts to inform our customers as to how this technology can best serve them. I will frequently show our customers the quality of our Indigo work and end up brainstorming with them about projects – it can be a lot of fun.

Pricing and quality are first and foremost our customers’ concerns when it comes to this technology. We have found that more and more eco-friendly papers are available to run on the Indigos and customers have been appreciative of that.

What are the current trends we see in the market with respect to green printing?

When I was working for New Leaf Paper prior to joining Pinnacle, I saw a demand for more and more FSC-certified papers; in fact, the demand for FSC-certified stock seemed to be bigger than for recycled. More and more printers are getting FSC-certified, and they are also carrying other certifications as well, such as from SFI or PEFC.

I have heard that some printers are not renewing their FSC certification due to economic reasons given the current state of our economy, but I don’t yet know how widespread that is. Again, printers follow demand, so where customers are asking for green papers, printers will offer them. When customers express an interest in a printer’s operations in regards to how green it is, printers take notice.

What is the influence of the economic downturn on green printing?

For anyone not fully invested (for philosophical or other reasons) in being green, belt-tightening will rule the day and some green options or processes may disappear if money can be saved by using alternatives. At the same time, I think most people are aware that being good environmental stewards is more important than ever and we have to consider our global footprint.

My feeling is that so many of us in the publishing and book printing industry are now so invested with such organizations as Green Press Initiative and the Book Industry Environmental Council that we will continue to “green up” and not let eco-friendly policies and practices fall by the wayside. . . .

Do you see the electronic book as a threat to our business?

I do not.

Thank you Deb! You can learn more about Pinnacle Press at their website – www.pinnaclepress.com

One comment
  1. Alison Wiley

    I definitely appreciate the book industry’s progress in sustainable practices. At the same time, sharing existing items more and producing less new items in the first place, whether books or anything else, is the most sustainable practice. I just read a great book courtesy of a friend’s loan, and currently have one of my own top picks out on loan to a different friend. Sharing builds community and interaction (“This was my favorite part; what was yours?”) as well as conserving natural resources.

    I’m a lifelong consumer of books, and they’ve helped me learn to tread more lightly on the planet while also giving me loads of fun and pleasure. Here’s a short list of my top recommendations, both fiction and non-fiction, for other folks like me with the ‘green gene’. http://www.diamondcutlife.org/books/

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