What You Should Know about Inkjet Paper Standards and Certifications
When you read the product descriptions and technical data sheets of different types of inkjet paper, you will come across terms or acronyms related to environmental standards or building or chemical-use regulations.
Global manufacturers of inkjet-printable materials are aware of all standards and regulations that affect how those materials will be made and used. But for most us, inkjet paper standards and certifications usually need some additional explanation.
Before reviewing some of the key standards and regulations cited in different types of inkjet paper products, let’s clarify the difference between standards and regulations.
Standards and Regulations
A standard provides guidelines, rules, or characteristics that specific products should meet to achieve desired objectives. Standards are established by consensus and approved by a recognized body. Compliance with standards is voluntary.
In the case of inkjet media, if you want to assure your own customers that you use archival-grade paper, you should be aware of the ISO 11108 standard. If your customer worries that printing is destroying forests, choose a paper that is FSC-certified or PEFC-certified. Certification is the process used to ensure that a manufacturer’s product complies with the voluntary standards.
A regulation is a mandatory, government-imposed requirement. A regulation might specify certain performance characteristics of a product, process or service. Or it could require the disclosure of potentially hazardous chemicals or the communication of safe handling, storage, and disposal procedures.
For example, building codes regulate that materials used in buildings meet certain safety, fire-resistance, or indoor air-quality performance standards. Some regulations start out as standards. Other regulations may specify that the products be tested using standardized testing procedures identified by the ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) or NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).
Here are some standards and regulations that appear on the spec sheets for inkjet bond papers, photo and art papers, and papers used for signs, displays, and wallcoverings.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promotes the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC certification signifies that the wood used to make the paper comes from FSC-certified, well-managed forests, company controlled sources, and/or recycled material.
FSC Chain-of-Custody certification traces the path of products from forests through the supply chain. The certification process verifies that FSC-certified material is kept separated from non-certified material throughout the chain.
The use of FSC-certified paper has grown significantly in recent years. The FSC now enables printing companies to apply for chain-of-custody certification and participate in the FSC Marketplace. The FSC Marketplace is a business-to-business platform that connects buyers of FSC-certified products with sellers of FSC-certified products.
The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is a Switzerland-based organization committed to conserving forests. PEFC Certification provides a way for paper manufacturers and printing companies to assure their customers that the products come from sustainably managed forests.
Forest certification enables forest managers to demonstrate that the practices they apply to forests today are sustainable and that their forests meet both our needs and those of future generations.
ISO-9706 and ISO-11108
The International Organization for Standardization develops ISO specifications for products, services, and systems to ensure quality, safety, and efficiency.
The ISO-9706 standard sets specifications for unprinted “permanent paper” for documents and publications.
ISO-11108 standard is for unprinted “archival paper” intended for documents and publications that will be permanently retained and frequently used. The standard doesn’t distinguish between papers used for archived text documents and papers used for archived photos and art.
Both the permanent and archival papers must be free of acids and oxidizing agents (such a as lignins) and be buffered. Buffering with materials such as calcium carbonate help prevent acids from migrating from the print surface into the paper. And permanent and archival papers must also have a certain degree of resistance to tearing.
But an “archival paper” must be made from cotton, cotton linters, hemp, or flax and be able to tolerate some folding. An archival paper may contain a minor fraction of fully bleached chemical pulp.
The ISO specifications for permanent and archival papers don’t consider factors that don’t affect the permanence and usability of the paper such as opacity, thickness, or brightness. A color change, such as yellowing around the edges, isn’t included in the standard for archival paper because it doesn’t affect the usability of the paper or the legibility of the print.
GREENGUARD certification helps architects and builders identify which products designed for use in building interiors have low chemical emissions. Builders and interior designers seek materials with low chemical emissions because they don’t want to inadvertently contribute to high levels of indoor air pollution.
According to an EPA booklet on indoor air quality “A growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air…People who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often the most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution.” This includes the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, such as those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
The EPA notes that “While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution. There can be a serious risk from the cumulative effects of these sources.”
GREENGUARD Gold Certification requires manufacturers to meet stricter certification criteria than basic GREENGUARD certification. The Gold certification considers the safety of sensitive individuals such as children or the elderly.
The GREENGUARD certification program is managed by the UL Environment business unit of the safety-sciences firm UL (Underwriters Laboratories). GREENGUARD certification is recognized by sustainable building programs and building codes around the world.
REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.
REACH is a European Union regulation that addresses the production of and use of chemical substances. It is designed to improve the protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by chemicals.
The regulation recognizes that toxic substances don’t have to be ingested to harm human health. Chemicals can be inhaled or enter the food chain through plants, fish, or other animals.
A key element of the REACH regulation is the requirement to communicate information about chemicals up and down the supply chain so that manufacturers, importers, and their customers are aware of the health and safety of the products being supplied.
Why Manufacturers Cite Standards
Ten years ago, many products that were promoted as environmentally friendly weren’t backed by environmental science. This “greenwashing” caused confusion among consumers of inkjet media and other products.
Today, many companies have established goals for corporate social responsibility, including sustainable supply chains. They want to proof that all the products they buy come from companies that act in an environmentally responsible way. Certification by independent organizations helps provide this proof.
Plus, if you know that your printed artwork must meet certain expectations for long-term durability, it makes sense to choose inkjet papers that have been designed to meet standards for archival performance.
Inkjet-printable fabrics must conform with an entirely different set of standards and regulations than inkjet-printable papers. Some building codes specify the properties of textiles that will be displayed in public buildings. Other regulations govern inkjet-printed fabrics that will be worn as apparel. We will discuss these regulations in another post.