Fact Sheet On The Hazardous Waste Generated By The Printing Industry

California Department of Health Services
Toxic Substances Control Program
Alternative Technology Division

April 1990

Waste Introduction Reduction

The commercial printing industry generates hazardous waste as a result of its operations. 'Me California Department of Health Services, Toxic Substances for the Control Program (TSCP) regulates the generation, treatment, storage, transport and disposal of hazardous wastes throughout the state. 'De TSCP is committed Commercial to reducing hazardous wastes generated to the greatest extent possible. As part of this effort, studies investigating alternative management strategies to reduce Printing hazardous waste have been completed. This fact sheet introduces the hazardous waste audit study conducted specifically for the commercial printing industry.


Many companies today have incorporated these options into their overall operations and are saving money on hazardous waste management costs while protecting their workers and the environment.

Waste streams Typical of the Commercial Printing Industry:

Hazardous waste reduction can be an effective, economic way to reduce hazardous waste management costs. In some instances, it may require some initial capital investment, but many companies have shown that, even in the short term, they can quickly recover these "up-front costs" when hazardous waste management and liability costs are reduced. Other advantages include:

This Fact Sheet was produced by the Technology Clearinghouse Unit to assist generators throughout the State of California.

Both state (Health and Safety Code, Article 11.8, Section 25244.4) and federal (Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 262, Subpart D) laws and regulations require that generators of hazardous waste file a biennial generator's report if more than 5 tons of waste per year are generated. Among other things, this report must include a description of the efforts undertaken, during the reporting period, to reduce the volume and toxicity of wastes generated. For more information on biennial reports call (916) 322-3913.

Generators of recyclable wastes who are not currently recycling must also provide, if requested by the TSCP, a written statement to justify not recycling the waste (Title 22, Article 12, Section 66763 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR)).

The Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest requires that large quantity generators (those generating greater than 2200 pounds of solid waste or 264 gallons of liquid waste) certify that they "have a program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated" and that they have selected the "most practicable method of treatment, storage, or disposal currently available... which minimizes the present and future threat to human health and the environment." Small quantity generators (those who generate greater than 220 pounds (26 gallons) but less than 2200 pounds per month of federally designated hazardous waste) must certify that they have made a "good faith effort to minimize waste generation and have selected the best affordable waste management method available".

Management Commitment

An important aspect of any waste reduction program is management commitment. Commitment shows employees that managers place a high priority on waste reduction. For example, a conspicuously posted shop policy, signed by top management, requiring waste reduction will aid in making it a critical part of all day-to-day activities. All employees must be encouraged to participate in reducing wastes to the greatest extent possible.

Also, if an employee is placed in charge of identifying ways to reduce wastes, he or she must be given the cooperation, by both employees and management, necessary to implement changes in shop operations.

Employee Awareness

Hazardous waste reduction efforts should be emphasized to each employee, from the general manager to machinery operators.

Employee suggestions should be encouraged through a merit program or some other type of incentive.

Good Housekeeping

Designate one person, usually the shipping and receiving clerk, to manage raw materials for proper inventory control and to ensure that hazardous substances are property contained, labeled and that a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is on file.

If materials have exceeded their shelf life, check on alternative uses before discarding. Consider contacting nearby theater groups or college graphic arts departments to donate expired materials for their programs. Also, buy only from a manufacturer that will accept materials back if shelf life is exceeded.

Minimize spills and use dry methods for cleanup wherever possible. If a spill of a hazardous substance occurs, use an absorptive material to soak it up and dispose of it in accordance with all local, state and federal regulations.

Image Processing

Silver compounds are classified as hazardous wastes under state and federal law if liquid wastes exceed five milligrams per liter of silver at a pH of 5.0. If process baths are discharged into the sewer, a permit by the local sanitation department is usually required. Concentrations of silver-contaminated wastewater must be maintained below local limits established by each sewering agency.

Ways to Manage Silver

Process Baths

Use an acid stop bath prior to the fixing bath. This reduces the effect of an alkaline developer on the fixing bath pH. Add acetic acid to the fixing bath, keeping the pH low to maximize soluble complexes.

Plate Processing


Many clients would use less hazardous products if given the choice, provided that product quality is not compromised. Inform clients of specific inks that are recyclable or are not hazardous and provide samples illustrating finished products. Encourage them to select these materials.

The composition of inks varies widely. Some inks contain chemicals that would be classified as hazardous; others do not. Inks frequently get their color from the metals or hazardous pigments they contain. Inks containing metals and/or those using a solvent carrier are often classified as hazardous. It is the responsibility of shop owners to determine whether the inks used in their operations are hazardous. For assistance in making the determination, review the container label, the MSDS, or ask your ink distributor (You can also contact the TSCP's Waste Evaluation Unit at (916) 324-1807 for more information).

Most inks can be recycled; they are often blended to make black ink. For smaller print shops, consider coordinating with larger plants or newspapers (that use a rubber or oil based ink) to recycle ink, These businesses usually recycle their inks on-site or ship them off-site in bulk shipments. Also consider purchasing inks from a distributor who will take or buy back unused or spent inks.

Waste Reduction Alternatives for Inks

Advantages of Water-Based Inks (flexographic and gravure processes)

Advantages of Ultraviolet Inks

Advantages of Electron Beam Drying (EB) (used on web presses)

Isopropyl Alcohol

Use a fountain solution that contains low concentrations of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or one containing no IPA. IPA emissions can cause air pollution problems and may require the installation of pollution control equipment. Substitutes are available. Operational adjustments may be required to make them work well, but the alternative cost of air pollution control equipment installation can make the effort economically worthwhile.

Waste Solvents

Waste solvents are generated when cleaning presses. These wastes are considered hazardous and should be recycled. For a listing of recycling companies, check the telephone book under "Solvents" or contact the TSCP's Alternative Technology Division at (916) 324-1807 for a free copy of the California Waste Exchange Directory. Solvents may not be disposed of to land. Discharge of solvents to the industrial sewer is, in general, not allowed.

Rags become contaminated with ink and solvent. Contaminated, nonsaturated rags are not considered hazardous wastes by the federal and state government if they are laundered and reused but contaminated rags to be disposed of are. The disposable rags must be stored separately from municipal trash and transported according to hazardous waste regulations.

Solvent Alternatives

Waste Lubricating Oils

Lubricating oils should be managed as hazardous wastes when they have no further use. Call the California Waste Management Board's Waste Oil Hotline at 1-800-553-2962 for information on waste oil handling. For large quantities of oil, look in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book under "Oils-Waste" for a transporter registered with the State of California to haul hazardous wastes for recycling.

Additional waste reduction techniques, not included in this fact sheet, are currently being developed. Low cost loans are also available if your business meets certain requirements. If you would like more information or have any case studies to share, please contact the Technology Clearinghouse in the Alternative Technology Division at:

Department of Health Services
Toxic Substances Control Program
Alternative Technology Division*
714/744 P Street
P.O. Box 942732
Sacramento, CA 94234-7320
(916) 324-1807*

To get an EPA ID number, call:*

DHS, Toxics Program
Program and Administrative Support Division
(916) 324-1781


State of California - Health and Welfare

Department of Health Services
Toxic Substances Control Program
714/744 P Street
P.O. Box 942732
Sacramento. CA 94234-7320

For information about your regulatory requirements, contact the DHS regional office nearest you:

Region ISacramento (916) 855-7700
Fresno (209) 445-5938
Region 2Berkeley (415) 540-2122
Region 3Burbank (818) 567-3000
Region 4Long Beach (213) 590-4868

In addition, print shop owners and operators may be able to obtain information from:

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Last Updated: January 9, 1996