Reducing waste in your shop not only helps the environment, it helps your bottom line!
Reusing and Recycling Garments
Despite your best efforts, all screen printers occasionally have misprints. Most screen printers reuse these misprints. You can use misprints for test printing, which is especially useful if the garment is the same type you’ll be using for future print jobs. Compared to pellons, testing actual shirts gives you a better idea of what to expect when it comes time to print the real thing. You can use a single shirt for many test prints, depending on the size of the image you’re printing. When you run out of space for testing, you can cut up the shirt and use it for rags to help clean up around your shop.
If your misprints are in good shape, donating them can be a great way to eliminate waste while helping people in need. Shelters will be grateful to accept donations of unworn or gently used clean garments. However, you should check with your customers first before donating shirts decorated with their names and logos. They may not want their misprints on display.
Recycling programs accept garments and either donate them if they’re in good condition, or recycle them into rags or fibers for use in other materials. These programs can find a way to repurpose almost any garment, regardless of its condition. Just be careful the garments don’t contain any harmful chemicals; your recycled shirts should be clean. Many cities have garment collection facilities where you can drop off your shirts for recycling. Check to see where the nearest location is to your shop. If there’s no drop-off location near you, you might even be able to arrange hosting a drop-off bin right at your shop. This way your customers can take advantage of the recycling program too.
These programs can find a way to repurpose almost any garment, regardless of its condition. Just be careful the garments don’t contain any harmful chemicals.
It’s Not Just Shirts…
Screen printing creates more waste than just misprinted shirts. Ink, cleaning supplies, film positives, empty boxes and containers should all be recycled or disposed of responsibly. You can probably reuse empty boxes and containers around your shop. If not, they can be easily recycled. If you’ve got supplies you order frequently, consider buying them in bulk to cut down on the packaging you receive; fewer shipments means fewer empty boxes laying around. When it comes to film positives, it may make sense to keep films on hand for orders that are repeated regularly, but films used for one-time jobs can be recycled.
Reducing Wasted Ink and Supplies
The best way to avoid wasting ink is to only prepare what you need for printing. This is often easier said than done, but a color matching system combined with an accurate scale and a reliable ink mixer can help you reduce waste. These systems are reasonably affordable and can save you money. Remember that leftover plastisol ink can be reused – just card it off the screen and place it in a container for future use. You can also combine your leftover ink with a small amount of black pigment to create a supply of spot color black ink for basic prints. Another key to reducing wasted screen printing ink (and saving money) is to store your ink in ways that will maximize its shelf life. Your ink manufacturer should have recommendations for how best to store your ink.
Even if you’re taking care to only use what you need and store it properly, you’ll still have to dispose of some leftover ink on occasion. Different types of ink require different methods of disposal; make sure you comply with all applicable regulations for your location.
Just like ink, you want to be sure you’re not using more of your other supplies than you need. Pallet adhesives, emulsion, screen cleaners and degreasers are often overused, not only wasting supplies but also wasting money. If you think you might be using too much of something, try testing a smaller amount with all other variables the same. The more supplies you can save without compromising your print quality, the more money you can keep in your wallet.
Don’t be put off by the potential cost of waste reduction. Not only will you be helping reduce your shop’s environmental footprint, you’ll also see the financial benefits on your bottom line as your shop operates more efficiently, saving you money. And there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your screen printing waste that are totally free! Some waste is inevitable, but there’s no shortage of ideas to help you dramatically reduce the amount your shop generates.
Want some more tips on how to run a more eco-friendly screen printing shop? Check out these blogs: