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Flexo and thermal plates reduce environmental footprints, studies show

October 14, 2008

DuPont Cyrel FAST thermal plate process is said to reduce non-renewable energy use by 60 percent over conventional plates.

DuPont Packaging Graphics, Wilmington, DE, USA, has published the results from two peer-reviewed environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies indicating significant non-renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions from use of its Cyrel flexographic print and thermal platemaking processes. The full report, Life Cycle Assessment:  Flexographic and Rotogravure Printing Comparison & Flexographic Plate Imaging Technologies, is available at

The two LCAs compared the environmental footprints of flexographic printing to gravure printing, and the footprint of thermal platemaking to solvent platemaking for flexography.

Data comparing flexo and gravure printing indicate that use of the flexo process alone results in significant reductions in both non-renewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 50 percent when converting flexible packaging plastic films. In simple terms, for every 1 million square meters (10 million square feet) of printed plastic substrate switched from gravure to flexo, the resulting savings in non-renewable energy would be equivalent to approximately 25,000 gallons of gasoline and savings in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to removing approximately 40 typical US passenger cars from the road for one year. To put that in perspective, there are more than 200 billion square meters of printed plastic substrate in the European and North American flexible packaging markets alone.

The results of the second study comparing thermal platemaking to solvent platemaking for flexo indicate that thermal imaging results in a reduction in non-renewable energy of approximately 60 percent and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 51 percent. Or, for every 10,000 square meters (100,000 square feet) of flexo plates imaged, the resulting non-renewable energy savings would be equivalent to approximately 8,800 gallons of gasoline and the savings in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to removing approximately 16 typical US passenger cars from the road for one year.

“DuPont has a long heritage of developing sustainable products for the packaging industry, and a Life Cycle Assessment is one of the most rigorous ways to examine our business’ environmental footprint,” said Lisa DiGate, global business director, DuPont Packaging Graphics. “We chose to use the LCA process, which is based on ISO standards, because of its broad industry acceptance and the rigor and objectivity of its external peer review requirement.”

DuPont Packaging Graphics used the LCA as a research process to evaluate the environmental footprint and energy consumption of its products and processes. Results from the LCA include data from both suppliers and customers and takes into account raw materials, energy, waste and emissions from image carrier manufacturing to the printed packaging substrate at the end of the press. The LCAs were conducted in accordance with ISO 14040 and 14044 guidelines and peer-reviewed by a panel of five independent experts coordinated by Five Winds International, a global consultancy recognized for its expertise in sustainable development.

DuPont Packaging Graphics is a supplier of flexographic printing systems in digital and conventional formats, including DuPont Cyrel brand photopolymer plates, Cyrel FAST processing equipment, Cyrel round sleeves, and mounting and finishing products.

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