The world of print has received its fair share of criticism and predictions about its future in the past two decades, brought on mainly by the digitisation of industries and the disruption this has caused to print as a result.
Many have predicted the downfall of print altogether, believing digital content makes print obsolete, being an environmentally damaging medium altogether – all of which could not be further from the truth.
Timothy Thomas, country manager at Epson South Africa, and Samantha Choles, communications specialist at the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA), share their thoughts, and industry-based evidence, to bust the prevailing myths surrounding print and the manufacture and use of paper.
Myth 1 – The print industry is on its way out
It’s no secret that print in the traditional sense has been on the decline, particularly in the realm of the media where newspaper and magazine circulations have dropped considerably and in many cases, publications shut down entirely.
However, print has been around for over two centuries and will always have a place in many ways; where the pandemic led to people increasing their use of screens and digital devices, many turned to physical books as a way to shut down and enjoy a kind of digital detox.
This is not to speak of the importance of paper in other applications – tissues, product packaging, labels, milk and drink cartons, and dosage leaflets for medicines.
People have also realised that reading reams of content from a screen for hours on end was not just uncomfortable but lacked the charm of the familiar feeling and smell of a book. And, of course, being able to surround yourself with printed pictures of precious memories is far more appealing to a lot of people than storing them away in the cloud where you hardly get to see them.
Myth 2 – Paper and printing are unsustainable
With the disruption caused by digital technology, the print and paper industries have been forced to transform their products and other offerings to meet the evolving demands of consumers and heed calls to reduce the negative environmental impact caused by printers. This, says Choles, addresses the issue of recycling printed.
“Through the process of print, more trees are planted, which means more carbon dioxide gets sucked up,” she says, while laying deforestation concerns as a result of trees being cut down for mass paper manufacturing to bed: “Trees are a crop; just as we farm mielies and grain for food, we farm trees for paper and many things beyond paper too.”
Myth 3 – The printing industry is major e-waste contributor
It’s true that the printer industry has historically produced a considerable amount of e-waste in the form of consumables that were either non-recyclable or incorrectly disposed of, causing items such as toner cartridges and even old printer devices to end up in landfills.
However, with the transformation of print to meet modern sustainability standards, print manufacturers are working harder at reducing their carbon footprints.
“Laser, unfortunately, does leave a very negative footprint on the environment. In South Africa, we actually fast tracked that decision and two years ago stopped the sale of laser devices in South Africa to really centre and focus our attention on contributing towards both South Africa and the African continent with new technology that lessens the impact on environment,” says Thomas.
Contrary to common myths, the print industry is anything but dead – it is alive and well, having simply pivoted away from unsustainable practices that don’t serve the eco-friendly agenda of today and the future. Paper, on which print relies, is equally deserving of a more positive reputation, particularly as it does have positive environmental ripple effects.