Frequently Asked Question

Are printing inks environmentally friendly/earth friendly/environmentally safe?

Unknown.   According to the CSA-ISO Standard 14021 claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “ecological (eco)”, and “green” are vague claims and should be reserved for products/services whose life cycles have been thoroughly examined and verified.   Printing inks have not undergone complete life cycle analysis.

An environmental claim that is vague or non-specific or which broadly implies that a product is environmentally beneficial or environmentally benign shall not be used.   CAN/CSA-ISO 14021, Clause 5.3

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Will ink biodegrade/compost?

(Extracted from the British Coating Federation Environmental Impact of Printing Inks statement)

Biodegradation is the process where microbes breakdown the material to water, carbon dioxide and some biomass that has no detrimental effect on the soil.  Composting is the process of controlled biodegradation outside a landfill.

Ink, as supplied to the printer, will not meet biodegradation requirements.  This is due to the presence of water insoluble pigments and resins in the ink.

When applied to a substrate, the compostability/biodegradability of the PRINTED product depends primarily on the characteristics of the substrate. Printing ink layers are very thin (1 to 5 μm max.) and generally cover the substrate only partially (<1% by weight).    In general, the presence of print on a printed article will not prevent the article from complying with the biodegradation requirements.   Any residues of print, which may remain after biodegradation, are inert and would not be considered as being harmful to the environment.

Complete statement can be found at:

What is De-inkability? 

(Extracted from the European Recovered Paper Council’s Guide to an Optimum Recyclability of Printed Graphic Paper)

De-inkability is a term used to describe how easily a printing ink film can be removed from the paper fibres.

If the ink is printed on coated substrates, there is no contact between printing ink and paper fibres.  In general no de-inking problems should arise, because the paper coating disintegrates as the recovered paper is pulped and fragments of the ink film are released.  

On uncoated substrates the adhesion of printing ink depends, firstly, on paper properties such as surface structure, fibre type, ash contents, etc. and, secondly, on  the drying mechanism of the chosen printing process.    Printing inks which form firmly sticking, tenacious printing ink films are more difficult to remove from the fibre. Examples are inks drying by polymerisation (oxidative drying, radiation curing). The ageing of offset inks based upon oxidative drying materials can also significantly reduce the deinkability.

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What is RoHS?  Do your inks comply?

RoHS is European Directive 2002/95/EC Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The European Parliament and Council Directive 2011/65/EU (Annex II amended by Commission Delegated Directive 2015/863 March 2015) requires the diversion of different components of electrical or electronic equipment from landfill into specific recycling programs (WEEE).

The amended Annex II restricts the use of 10 compounds that are deemed to pose risks to health or the environment during the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment. (RoHS-3)

Lead (0.1 %) Mercury (0.1 %)
Cadmium (0.01 %) Hexavalent chromium (0.1 %)
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) (0.1 %) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) (0.1 %)
Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) (0.1 %) Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (0.1 %)
Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) (0.1 %) Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) (0.1 %)

It is unlikely that an ink manufacture will intentionally use these materials. Please contact your ink supplier for confirmation.

The most recent amendment) can be found at:

What is BOD?

BOD is Biochemical Oxygen Demand.  It measures the amount of oxygen required or consumed for the microbiological decomposition (oxidation) of organic material in water.   The standard unit of measure is milligram/Litre (mg/L) of oxygen consumed in 5 days at a constant temperature of 20°C in the dark.

The purpose of this indicator is to assess the quality of water available to consumers. It is also one of a group of indicators of ecosystem health.

Strict water quality standards have been established to protect users from health and other adverse consequences of poor water quality. The presence of high BOD may indicate faecal contamination or increases in particulate and dissolved organic carbon. Increased concentrations of dissolved organic carbon can create problems in the production of safe drinking water if chlorination is used, as disinfection by-products, such as trihalomethanes and other compounds toxic to humans, may be produced. Increased oxygen consumption poses a potential threat to a variety of aquatic organisms, including fish. It is, therefore, important to monitor organic pollution to identify areas posing a threat to health, to identify sources of contamination, to ensure adequate treatment, and provide information for decision making to enhance water sustainability.   BOD is also a useful measure to assess the effectiveness of current water treatment processes.

Extracted from:  The United Nations Methodology Sheets for freshwater analysis

What is the Swiss Ordinance for Food Packaging Inks?

The Swiss Ordinance is an inventory of substances that may be used in the production of food packaging inks. It was revised on May 1, 2017. Section 12 of the Ordinance sets out the provisions relating to printing inks applied on the non-food contact surface of food contact materials (FCM) (“non-direct food contact FCM inks”, “non-DFC FCM inks”). Article 35 of this section details the requirement that only permitted substances should be used in the manufacture of Inks for Food Contact Materials.

Permitted Substances are defined as those which are listed in Annex 2 and in Annex 10. The permitted substances list is divided into two sections –an “A list” for evaluated substances and a “B list” for unevaluated ones. The legislation establishes a system where the Swiss government evaluates a substance and, when appropriate, gives the substance official approval by moving the substance from the B list to the A list.

Substances on the B list (unevaluated) must comply with a strict migration limit of 0.01 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), or 10 parts per billion. For substances on the A list, the limit could be could be above 50 ppb.

The majority of the variables influencing migration from printed packaging are not controlled by the ink manufacturer–e.g. pack design, use of inner and outer wrappings, substrate selection, material barrier properties, extent of curing and drying, opportunities for set-off, storage conditions, nature of the packaging foodstuff, etc. The same ink printed under different conditions of use, on different pack designs and substrates, can have completely different migration performances.

With ink components, migration can occur either through the substrate, through set-off to the food contact side of substrate during storage, or by gas-phase transfer. More converters and food packagers will have to test their packaging to show compliance with the new migration limits, and may have to change packaging designs to use low migration inks.

All food packaging material suppliers (e.g. inks, substrate, adhesive, coatings, etc.) and food packaging printers must adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for the production of food contact materials and articles.

Extracted from:

Does the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) evaluate food packaging materials?

On July 2, 2014 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ceased issuing Letters of Acceptance (LOA) for packaging materials, non-food chemicals and construction materials used in federally registered meat establishments.  CFIA no longer has regulatory authority to evaluate or register these materials.

Federally registered meat packagers and all other food packagers must ensure that the packaging materials used in their establishments are safe and suitable for their intended use and meet all regulatory requirements.  There are no mandatory requirements for evaluation of food packaging materials under the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations, with the exception of infant formula and novel process (e.g. High Pressure Processing) packaging.

Although it is not mandatory, food packaging companies may wish to voluntarily obtain an opinion from Health Canada on the suitability of a package for a specific application, in the form of a “Letter of Non-objection” (LONO).  Health Canada evaluates the entire package design, including all materials used, manufacturing process, type of food to be packaged and how it will be stored and processed for use.  The whole process can take 6 months to 2+ years. 

See the following for further information on CFIA’s role: