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Sustainability in Sublimation Printing

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

By Alex Berryman

It is no secret that textile production can be incredibly harmful to the environment and the dyeing process is one of the main culprits. Dyeing textiles contributes 17-20% of the global industrial water pollution as well as a huge amount of solid waste when those dyeing machines are obsolete. While there is a push to clean up the act of the textile industry, many are still using unsustainable means.

Sublimation printing offers an alternative to poluting dyeing practices; it doesn't use any water and waists no ink or dye and enables vibrant, durable colors in any design or print. In this blog, we will assess the impact sublimation printing has on the environment, share best practices when to look for in a sublimation printer, and how we at Purnaa have established our own environmental ly friendly printing system.

Water Pollution in Textile Industry
Jian River in North China - Photo Credit : CNN

Sublimation Printing - A Closed Loop Printing Process:

Water is an integral part of the dyeing process for most textile products, acting as the medium in which the dyes are transferred into the textiles. It can take 200 tons of water to dye just 1 ton of textiles. This is a huge amount of water, usually diverted from municipal waterways. Due to poor regulation, much of this water is fed back into the same ecosystem with high levels of chemicals which can include carcinogenic chemicals, dyes, salts, and heavy metals. This not only hurts the environment but also pollutes essential drinking water sources.

Sublimation Print - closed loop dyeing process
Anuj (Purnaa print specialist) preparing a print

In contrast to unsustainable dyeing methods, sublimation does not use water as a medium to transfer the dye but instead uses heat. The ink is printed on large sheets of paper, then laid on top of white polyester fabric. The fabric and paper are then run through a heat press which vaporizes the ink (directly from a solid to a gas state a process for which the scientific term is sublimation) and chemically binds the ink to the fibers of the polyester. This ensures no ink is wasted and that it does not come into contact with waterways.

That being said, Sublimation printing is not perfect. There are a number of things to ask your manufacturer when exploring sublimation printing.

Best Practices That Will Ensure Your Sublimation Printer is Sustainable:

  1. Ask your supplier if any of the dyes or inks contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These are chemicals that evaporate under normal atmospheric conditions causing various kinds of pollution or ozone-destroying problems. If your ink manufacturers can give you VOC-free certification of their products, then you should be good to go.

  2. Steer clear of inks that contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, chromium, or mercury. Suppliers that are a member of The Ecological and Toxicological Association of Dyes and Organic Pigments Manufacturers (ETAD) ensure their products do not contain these materials.

  3. Consider which material you will be using. Most sublimation must be done on polyester fabric because the inks must chemically bound to a polymer, which is not present in natural fibers. Unfortunately, as a synthetic fiber, polyester can contribute to micro-plastics in the water and takes a very long time to decompose. Therefore, request your supplier use recycled polyester and ensure your customers have a way to recycle their finished product when it reaches the end of its life.

With consideration of these factors, brands and consumers can finally have a closed-loop dyeing process - helping them on their journey to sustainability, and that is certainly something to celebrate.

Purnaa, Sublimation Printing, and Sustainability

At Purnaa, we are so excited to offer sublimation printing to our customers! This printing service will be available for both wholesale products and cut-and-sew manufacturing.

Throughout all our manufacturing, we look for ways to be more sustainable and limit our impact on the environment - and sublimation printing is no different. We specifically chose a printer and ink that are more sustainable and established practices to reduce waste.

Epson sublimation printer
Purnaa's Epson printer printing custom caps

First, our printer uses inks that are certified by Eco Passport by OEKO-Tex. This certification ensures the inks we use are not harmful to our staff who operate the machinery or the surrounding environment.

Second, we ensure that we recycle all of the paper and scrap material resulting form our sublimation manufacturing.

Finally, we opted for an Epson SureColor Dye Sublimation printer which is RoHS compliant and is entirely recyclable after use as per the Epson recycling program. This ensures the materials used to construct the printer are disposed of properly once Purnaa no longer has a use for it.

To learn more about how sublimation printing can work for your business, contact sales@purnaa.comor share your idea here and we'll be in touch to explore if we can meet your manufacturing needs.


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