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Eco-Friendly Screen Printing

If you're looking for eco friendly t-shirt screen printing, how do you know which type to choose?

As an Award-Winning supplier of organic and ethical clothing we've needed to back up the quality of our supply chain with new t-shirt printing technology.

Eco T-shirt Printing in 10 seconds
  • We're an Award-Winning t-shirt printer to some of Europes biggest brands. Our new low waste printing technology was developed at Rapanui HQ and uses animal friendly inks. It allows us to print a wider range of styles with more vibrant colour and much less waste. Saving waste means saving money, so with the increased efficiency we've been able to reduce prices by 25%. Visit Rapanui Factory for more

There are a number of ways to print a t-shirt, but the two mediums that are most commonly used are solvent-based inks and water-based inks. Water-based inks sound better but often require more energy to dry them and they create more waste. DTG (digital direct to garment) printing is low waste but historically expensive, whilst vinyl transfer t-shirts dont really have a place anywhere near the eco category.

"The main impact of screen printing is the chemicals in the ink (its creation, use and waste) and the energy and emissions from drying the print."
water based t shirt screen printing Water-Based Screen Print
Less toxic, but more waste and needs more energy to cure.
eco friendly t shirt screen printing Plastisol Screen Print
Chemically worse but less waste and energy to cure.
eco t shirt printing with DTG DTG Printing
Modern low-waste ink, more expensive per application
vinyl t shirt print Vinyl Heat Transfer
Heat reactive plastic film, a plastic sheet of waste per item

 

Small runs: Order online

For small runs under 50, DTG printing is a new technology that allows people to print t-shirts where it would not normally be economical. It's more expensive per application that screen printing, but there's no set up costs and best of all unlimited colours: You could print a photo on a t-shirt, and you can even design and order online.

Screen printing is economical

To screen print a t-shirt, you must cut out a shape in a flat surface and then push the ink through this 'screen' into the open stencil, creating a pattern. You do the cutting with a very bright light and some fancy software. The print is then baked onto the t-shirt in a heater to dry the design and fasten it. Looking for a screen printing supplier?

Printing Prices

If you're looking for eco friendly t-shirt printing, we have a dedicated B2B website where you can find out more and get a quote online.

Get Quote Go to Rapanui Factory
Discussion: When choosing Inks, Solvent or Water-based?

As a chemical, water-based inks are theoretically better for the environment. They contain less oil-based chemicals and are less harmful for biology in the watercourse, but most noticeably for the guys using them each day - the printer. However, water based inks are watery, so once they are out of the tin they must be washed off the screen and into a drainage sink. A few printers may have developed some sort of closed loop recovery methods for this but the reality is that drainage is often unavoidable. With water based inks, there is more waste. With plastisol, you can scoop up nearly all the ink and use it again next time - it doesn't go off - so what you put down the drain is dramatically lower in volume. Infact, it's cheaper to save ink too.

Solvent-based inks can contain very nasty Volatile Organic Compounds and endocrine disruptors (phthalates) that are very harmful if released to the environment - it goes without saying we only use 100% Phthalate free, VOC-free screen printing ink. *EDMAR Endocrine Disruptors in the Marine Environment (2002)

Drying can be Energy Intensive

Whilst talk often focuses on inks and chemicals, another significant impact comes from the energy intensive baking oven which dries the print. T-shirts are laid out on a conveyor belt and baked in a (usually gas-fired) oven much like an oven grill. Whilst solvent-based prints sound worse than water-based inks, they actually take only one-fifth of the time to bake, using one fifth of the gas and one-fifth of the carbon. Our printing takes place at the Rapanui factory on the Isle of Wight, meaning improved quality and reduced transport emissions too.

So which is better, Plastisol or Water-Based?

Unfortunately we think it would be difficult to call any kind of commercial screen printing eco-friendly at the moment. Instead we have developed our own low-waste printing tech in house, but it only works for low volumes. For bulk screen printing, it's more about being responsible and making the best of what we've got:

  • Choose an ink that is Phthalate-free, on the GOTS list of compliant inks and VOC free
  • Put processes and procedures in place to reduce wastage
  • Choose electric drying powered by renewable energy
  • Train staff in environmental impact associated with ink handling
  • Advise the customer on availability of low waste print tech
  • Print on organic t-shirts
Read more about screenprinting in bulk on our dedicated website

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