24 Jan

Water-Based Inks: 3 Ways They Increase Packaging Appeal

You’ve switched from using brown parcel tape to a clear eco tape to fasten the outer packaging of your product. Instead of stuffing the package with plastic air bags, you’re using corrugated cardboard fillers with a bespoke design to hold smaller components in place. Both changes are reducing the impact of your packaging operations on the environment. But, there’s still one prominent area of your box’s design where you see room for sustainability improvement: within its printed design.

Whether that’s the label that gets affixed at the end of the production line or a design stamped directly onto the cardboard box itself, the inks that have been typically used within the packaging industry haven’t had the best environmental record. Until now. Thanks to the rise of water-based inks, eye-catching designs are getting more sustainable. Read on to find out why you should consider swapping to a packaging supplier that uses water-based inks!

Why should you move away from solvent-based inks?

Water-based inks are one of the most promising ways the printing and packaging sector is adapting to have less of a negative impact on the environment. Traditionally, we’re used to using solvent-based inks, where pigment (the substance that gives the ink its colour) is carried by petroleum-based materials. This carrier is the component that transfers the ink onto the desired substrate/surface before drying off. Yet volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released into the air when solvent-based inks dry, contributing to ozone pollution and health problems. Not good!

Given carriers account for 70-80% of a bucket of ink, that’s a lot of VOCs going into the atmosphere. Not to mention the usually potent smell they release, too! So even if your cardboard box is made from 100% recycled materials, if a solvent-based ink has been used in its design, you’re undoing a lot of the positive environmental work.

What are water-based inks?

Enter water-based inks! As the name suggests, water is the main carrier of the pigment in these eco-friendly inks. They’re made of natural, non-polluting substances that don’t contain any VOCs. Easy to recycle and without any detrimental health effects to humans, water-based inks are an eco-friendlier solution for printed packaging designs.

Why choose water-based inks?

When it comes to their application, water-based inks boast a considerable amount of versatility. For instance, they can be used to print your business’s logo onto uncoated materials, like the corrugated cardboard of an outer box. Or, they can be used to affix a pattern to the coated paper used the fill the inside of a box. They can also print designs onto pallet labels for organised packaging inventory management (stuck using a solvent-free adhesive, of course!).

In the future, we’re hoping to see water-based inks used more often within the materials that fasten packages, like eco tape. That would give you the power to further customise your packaging to grow brand memorability in a more sustainable way!

3 ways water-based inks increase packaging appeal

We’ve sung their environmental credentials and we’re praised their application versatility. But, how do water-based inks increase the appeal of your packaging to your target market? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Brilliant aesthetic appeal

First up, water-based inks are highly pigmented substances that results in exceptional eye-catching colours. Their formulation can be customised, meaning you can achieve designs that stay on-brand with your exact colour scheme, supporting customer recognition.

Technically, aqueous inks have very good printability, meaning the ink achieves an excellent coverage across the material it’s applied to. This gives the print a high-quality finish and soft feel to touch. This level of aesthetic appeal is matched by the fact that water-based inks are odourless, perhaps a subconscious yet significant benefit to your employees and end customer!

2. Greater operational efficiency

Secondly, cost. Water-based inks tend to be cheaper than their solvent-based counterparts. That’s largely because the compounds that are used for their formulation are low-cost, like organic co-solvents. (And, of course, water!) It’s not only your environmental footprint that they improve, but your financial bottom line, too.

What’s more, the aqueous nature of these inks means they’re low foaming and fast drying, reducing the risk of inks getting smudged along the production line – or, in transit! And having a batch of products returned because of a poorly printed design is not a cost-effective packaging activity. Water-based inks also boast high abrasion resistance, supporting your eco-friendly packaging to maintain its integrity and aesthetic appeal from warehouse floor to shop shelf.

3. Better environmental and human impact

Lastly, whilst aqueous inks are easier to recycle and biodegrade than those that are solvent-based, it’s not just the planet they have a more positive impact on. It’s humans, too! Whether it’s the person operating the printing machine or the employee handling the packages in your warehouse, water-based inks are kinder to us. Something that’s especially important for FMCG that we directly touch or ingest, like beauty or food products.

Any packaging that uses ink is at risk of absorbing it, which could mean the ink gets into the product it’s protecting. No-one wants to take a bite of their Easter egg and unknowingly swallow a toxic compound! That’s where water-based inks offer that additional peace of mind – even if they were to end up in your favourite snack, they’re not toxic. We’ll eat to that!

So there you have it. From improved sustainable credentials and customer appeal to how they support cost-effective packaging, water-based inks have many ways to increase your box’s appeal.

You can find out more about switching from solvent- to water-based inks for more eco-friendly packaging designs by getting in touch!

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