Recycling screen printing film positives
Reducing the Negatives of Film Positives
When I started working at Commonwealth Press there was a stack of old Gildan boxes in the very corner of the shop that seemed to be slowly growing as time progressed. As we quickly grew and that once “extra space” was slated to be our new receiving area the boxes needed moved. What a surprise it was when I tried to sling one of those boxes up over my shoulder, this friggin’ thing had to weigh nearly a hundred pounds! Upon cutting the box open I was not surprised to find it stacked full of old film positives that were in limbo, we didn’t want to throw them in the trash but had no idea where or how to recycle or repurpose them.
What you may not know is that every job at CWP requires multiple film positives to create the stencil to print your artwork. Early on as a business we would catalog these films in case the customer were to want to rerun the art at a later date. As time passed it became apparent that too much time, effort and resources were being used to preserve the integrity of these films for a very low number of reruns. At that point the decision was made to print new films for all but a small select number of jobs and dispose of the films after the jobs were completed.
Disposing of the films was a half-finished idea. Yeah, we were not going to ever reuse them or catalog them in expensive folders again, but what would we do with them? Throwing them in a landfill to sit for the next 500 years was out of the question. I hated even the idea of having our companies name emblazoned across a pile of plastic buried into the ground. We would recycle them!.....someday, when we get around to it.
As with many supplies in the Screen Printing Industry our film comes in bulk rolls with no instructions, no recycling stamp and not much for a label. So I got a hold of the manufacturer to find out what the films were constructed from, they told me it was Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, sometimes PETE) with a light coating to accept ink and it was easily recyclable. After talking with a few materials recyclers I found out that no one was going to pay us to take these boxes off our hands. So I turned to the Pittsburgh Public Works Recycling Division for answers. They were very helpful and said they would be more than happy to accept this material with our weekly recycling as long as it was labeled.
We made arrangements for them to accept the unlabeled materials after they were bagged and the bags were labeled with the# 1PETE symbol so the sorters would know the contents of the bags. Going forward we were going to have to label each of our films to avoid confusion at the sorting center. I approached our artist and asked him to incorporate the #1PETE recycling symbol into our art template so every film we printed would be easily identifiable and could just be thrown into any recycling container and eventually made into future products.
We know that the films used in screen printing don’t account for the smallest fraction of a percent when it comes to polyethylene use. We’ll leave it to the beverage industry to do most of the spewing of this certain material all over the planet. We found a way to keep the poly we use from finding a direct path to the landfill and hope to pass this information along to as many print shops as possible. It is not common knowledge as to what materials make up films and where and how to recycle them. We hope this changes that.
So here are the simple instructions:
- Find a recycler. If they recycle plastic, they recycle #1PETE. It’s the most common and simple plastic to recycle.
- Add a recycling symbol to your art template, or somewhere on all your films.
- Dispose of it in the proper bin along with other plastic recyclables.
It’s very, very, very easy. DO IT!