Specialty Graphics Imaging Association: environmental performance agreement overview

Note: This agreement is no longer in effect.

This environmental performance agreement (the agreement) was in effect from January 31, 2004, to January 31, 2008.

For a copy of the agreement, email: ec.epa-epe.ec@canada.ca


The objective was to achieve verifiable reductions in the use, generation, and release of specified priority substances used in the screen printing and digital imaging sectors, focusing on, but not limited to, volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


The agreement was negotiated between Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA).


Specialty Graphics Imaging Association

The association is committed to an estimated aggregate 20% reduction of VOC emissions and an aggregate 6% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from participating companies between the 2000 baseline year and 2008. The VOC reductions will be calculated as overall totals from all participating companies. Reductions will also be measured based on the square footage of substrate printed, as a per unit measure, to take into account the increases in demand for screen printing services. The SGIA is further committed to ensuring that participants screen their inventories for the VOCs listed in appendix 1 of the agreement, to help identify new opportunities for reducing VOC emissions and to develop case studies outlining progress.

Participating SGIA member companies

The first five participants developed targets and timelines to achieve verifiable reductions in their company's use, generation, and release of the substances listed in appendix I. They aimed to develop and implement plans to minimize and eliminate VOCs using pollution prevention activities and best available technology that is economically achievable. They also agreed to implement an environmental management system (EMS).

Performance results

Specialty Graphics Imaging Association

The first case study report provides background on progress towards the aggregate VOC reduction target in 2003, the year before the agreement came into force. The five participants reduced their combined emissions by over 50%, from 14.2 tonnes in 2000 to 6.8 tonnes in 2003. The target for 2008 is a 20% reduction from base-year emission levels.

To illustrate that emission reduction figure did not simply reflect a reduction in printing volumes, the companies recalculated the reduction in VOC emissions adopting "square footage of substrate printed" as a measure of production. When production levels in 2000 and 2003 are added to the equation, the reduction in emissions is comparable.

One example of how this was achieved: some participating companies switched from high-VOC solvent-based ink to a newer ultraviolet (UV) curable ink, which contains less than 1% VOCs by volume. This switch and other VOC-reducing technical upgrades have yielded the following benefits:

  • The use of UV inks provides a higher-quality product.
  • Although UV ink costs more than solvent-based ink, the ink mileage is greater. Therefore, less ink is used, and overall cost is reduced.
  • Without airborne solvents in the workplace, employee exposure to harmful vapours is significantly reduced.
  • Minimizing VOC usage and emissions can result in eliminating or reducing the regulatory requirements to report VOC usage and emissions, at both the provincial and federal levels.

Participating SGIA member companies

Three additional case studies were developed, highlighting the efforts made by individual companies participating in the agreement:

  • Technograph, one of the agreement signatories, made a number of improvements, including switching from methylene chloride (dichloromethane, which is a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999) screen adhesives to a less hazardous acetone-based system and installed a venting system to remove vapours from the workplace. This resulted in benefits for the environment and employees, by lowering exposure to a probable carcinogen, and also to production and efficiency, by reducing drying times and providing better adhesion in the product.
  • North American Decal set a target of a 10% reduction in the amount of solid waste sent to disposal by May 2005. By recycling products such as photographic film, fluorescent lamps, paper, plastics, skids, drink containers and electronics, reusing products such as ink pails and also seeking written certification from each vendor on how they manage the materials they pick up, North American Decal achieved their objective by December 2004 - five months ahead of schedule.
  • By switching from solvent-based to UV-based ink, Ellis Studios decreased VOCs by 52% in 2004 compared to 2000. Removing solvent inks and thinners resulted in a cleaner and safer work environment with less fumes and lower risks of fire.

Next steps

Participating companies will continue to implement and benefit from environmental management improvements as they set other environmental objectives and targets, such as reducing and recycling solid waste.

Additional case studies will be developed by the SGIA to share best practices with member companies.

A business sustainability model will be developed as an outcome of this agreement.

Background information

In early 2003, the SGIA approached ECCC about working together on a project to reduce member companies' emissions of VOCs. Several SGIA member companies did not want to wait until the agreement was signed to get started on their VOC reduction targets. In July 2003, before the agreement was signed, the first group of five Ontario SGIA member screen printing companies had set objectives and targets for VOC reductions from levels in 2000, the baseline year.

Most VOCs from this sector come from solvents in printing inks and in fluids used to reclaim (clean) the screens. In the mid to late 1990s, there were approximately 4 000 screen printers in Canada, split equally between graphics and textile printers. Collectively, their annual VOC emissions during those years were approximately 46 000 tonnes. This agreement focuses on, but is not limited to, the VOCs listed in its Appendix I.

VOCs were added to the List of Toxic Substances on schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, in July 2003. Further information about the management of VOCs is described in the federal agenda for VOCs, published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, March 27, 2004.

How it works

Participating facilities sign a commitment form and commit to set targets to reduce their VOC emissions, implement pollution prevention, sustain an environmental management system (EMS), monitor and report annually on their results, and continuously improve.

A Task Force, composed of a representative of the SGIA, ECCC, and each of the participating companies, manages implementation, promotion and reporting, provides recommendations, and publishes an annual report containing at least two case studies.

The SGIA and the project coordinator conduct site visits, workshops, communicate with companies and prepare and publish case studies, with information and case studies available for verification.

Contact us

Regulatory Innovation and Management Systems
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 Blvd Saint-Joseph
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3

Email: ec.epa-epe.ec@canada.ca

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