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Today, you'd be hard pushed to find any print business without at least one environmental accreditation to its name, but that does not mean printers are universally happy about it. Some of the original cynicism about the extent to which green policies actually make a difference still exists and the costs associated with going green also come under much fire. However, this is a short-sighted opinion, according a growing band of eco-evangelist printers, as, far from being money down the drain, going green is not only good for the planet, it can also be a great revenue stream.

One of the first financial benefits is increased business through companies being attracted by the promise of sustainable performance. Tangent, a print and marketing group comprised of a number of firms, including the Ravensworth digital print facility and online operator The Digital Print Partnership, has discovered that holding FSC accreditation is very much a pitch winner.

Tangent group procurement manager Bernard O'Connor explains that new business is one of the major benefits of this recycling effort.

"While our original goal was to reduce the quantity of waste that we were sending to landfill, we have started to promote our recycling initiatives to customers," says O'Connor. "One of our biggest clients gave us even more business after they saw that we were FSC accredited."

Tangent has also recently received a certificate from the World Land Trust showing that the company uses carbon-balanced paper, which has saved 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide since March. O'Connor says this is something that will give the company ammunition when competing for work, as clients can see that the company is going the extra mile - in a world where price is beaten down as far as possible, green credentials such as this can be a real point of difference and a chance for the client to boost its own eco credentials.

To this end, O'Connor explains, it is crucial that printers also ensure their own suppliers are up to scratch environmentally.

"When I appraise potential suppliers, their environmental characteristics are evaluated and form part of the selection process," he adds.

Julian Long, national key account manager at paper manufacturer Arjowiggins Graphic also believes a green approach to business can only become more important in the struggle to secure new business.

"People are really getting back behind environmental issues and I believe that they will be looking for print suppliers who can prove that they are reducing their impact on the environment," he says.

"We'll see more printers adopt more sustainable technologies, such as using waterless printing or opting for vegetable rather than oil-based inks; measures like these will be part of a bigger package of becoming greener."

Arjowiggins Graphic has set up an environmental calculator to show clients the difference using recycled paper can make in terms of the amount of water, energy and wood used, as well as the amount of CO2 produced.

What next?

But going green doesn't stop with a couple of environmental accreditations and some recycled stock. If you're really concerned to be seen as a sustainable operator, there are plenty of other things you can do. For example, how about printing on a recycled press?

"Our philosophy is that we cannot continue using up raw materials. That's why, by 2050, we intend our products to contain much more recycled metal than they currently do," reveals Ricoh environmental manager Tim Taylor

Ricoh currently 'remanufactures' print cartridges and mid-range printing presses that fit the company's environmental agenda. The presses are stripped down to a carcass before the software is updated and the machines are sent back into the factory to be rebuilt.

"Only the mortality parts are not replaced," adds Taylor, "if the clutch is worn, we regrind it and send it out for a second life."

Like Tangent Group, Taylor believes that Ricoh's green credentials have helped it win business from other manufacturers.

"We do promote the environmental side of what we do to our customers because they don't always realise that it is part of our philosophy. It is an important agenda to a lot of people and I believe it has helped us to attract customers, even when we are not necessarily the cheapest supplier."

Money matters

But the benefits don't stop at winning new business. Financial returns can also be more immediate thanks to the money you can generate from recycling. In the current economic climate, the financial benefits of recycling should not be overlooked.

The Guardian Print Centre, which prints The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, is making around £2,000 per month profit from recycling its waste, which includes aluminium plates, waste chemicals, batteries, fluorescent tubes and IT waste.

It works with waste management company J&G Environmental, which offsets the cost of taking away chemicals against the value of the aluminium plates and sends the company a cheque every month for the balance.

Engineering manager Danny Couchman explains: "We've been working with J&G Environmental since 2005. They take away all of our waste and if there is anything that they don't deal with they will put us in touch with a company that does handle it."

Arda Metal Packaging, which has three metal and three glass plants in the UK, has also discovered the financial benefit of recycling and has reduced the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 26 tonnes per month, which, as landfill tax is currently set at £56 per tonne, represents a huge saving.

The company, which recycles aluminium, plates, solvents, lacquers, oil drums, ink tins and gearboxes, has also cut its skip hire down from four 40-yard open skips per week to one 35-yard compacted skip per month.

Arda Metal Packaging works manager Steve Niblett, says: "The value of the aluminium plates almost writes off the cost of our waste disposal. We are now recycling or reusing around 85% of our waste - that's 85% out of landfill."

O'Connor says that the Tangent Group makes a profit of around £1,000 a month from its recycling, which has reached a heady 98% of waste.

"We've just renegotiated the rate we receive for our paper waste from £15 to £50 per tonne," he explains. "We make more money out of paper as we don't generate a huge amount of aluminium waste."

Like Arda Metal Packaging, the Tangent Group has found that cutting down on landfill can also help to cut costs.

"We have significantly reduced the amount we were spending on skips and landfill taxes," O'Connor adds. So, at a time when many businesses are struggling in a difficult economic climate, how many can afford to throw away what could be valuable waste? With many printers doing their best to cut costs, boost profits and win new business, examining what's in the skip could be just the ticket.