Fildes Pty Ltd

Solvent Recovery in Flexographic Printing: Fildes Pty Ltd

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Courtesy of Fildes Pty Ltd

 Background

Fildes Pty Ltd is a long established, family owned company, located in Sandringham, Victoria. Fildes manufacture quality labels, bags and retail packaging. The company currently supplies 90 per cent of the Australian pharmacy market, as well as packaging for a wide range of high profile retailers.

The Process

As part of the manufacturing process, the labels and bags are printed with a range of client logos. In this printing process, denatured alcohol is used as a solvent for the printing ink.

Waste ink and solvent is generated from:

  • contamination of the printing ink with moisture and dust, leading to a gradual deterioration of ink quality;
  • colour changes; and
  • clean up of rollers and other equipment associated with the printing presses.

The waste solvent and ink mixtures were placed in drums and sent off-site for disposal by a licensed contractor. Annual waste solvent generation was approximately 9,600 litres.

Cleaner Production Initiative

Fildes installed a solvent recovery system that comprised a washing cabinet and distillation unit. The washing cabinet is used for cleaning machine parts that have become coated with ink during the printing process. Dirty solvent from the cleaning process, along with that from other sources, is then fed into the distillation unit. The solvent is boiled off and recovered as a clean solvent that can be reused in the printing process. A solid residue, principally containing the ink pigments and other contaminants, is left behind. This material is relatively inert, and is disposed of to landfill in the general solid waste stream.

The distillation unit has a capacity of 60 litres, and takes 10 hours to complete a distillation cycle. For each 100 litres of dirty solvent approximately 30 litres of clean solvent is recovered.

In conjunction with the use of the distillation unit, Fildes have also taken a number of steps to reduce the generation of waste ink. These include:
 

  • collection of unused ink from the machine reservoir at the end of a production run for reuse in subsequent production runs;
  • scheduling production to run from light to dark colours whenever possible, within the constraints of orders and delivery dates, therefore reducing the need to clean machines between colour changes; and
  • where possible, the solid residue from the distillation process is reconstituted with solvent to produce a useable black base ink. 

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