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ECO-T Environmental Sustainability Plan

Screen Printing Ink

Every t-shirt you buy from us is green, thanks to "ECO‑T," our environmental sustainability plan. What we already do and what we are planning to do is posted publicly both for our customers and because our research can help other companies improve their processes. We're proud of the positive efforts we are making on these concerns and want you to know the direction we're headed.

Screen Printing Ink

Phthalates

T-shirts are most often printed with plastisol inks are a plastic resin called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates, liquid plasticizers, are used in the creation of these inks to increase their flexibility. Studies have shown that exposure to high doses of a particular phthalate can disrupt the endocrine system. This is of greatest concern for manufacturers of PVC based children's toys but we aren't taking any chances.

As of January 5, 2009, we changed over to a new ink chemistry. This new ink chemistry is a plastic based ink that does not contain phthalates. The vast majority of screen printers have not converted over, but wanted to set a new standard. These new inks are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified1 You can ask for this ink by name, "Wilflex Epic™" [PDF, opens in new window]

Alternative Inks
  • Water-based Inks
    ProsCons
    • No PVC
    • Fewer VOCs
    • Softer Feel
    • Less Expensive
    • Uses more energy to dry
    • Not opaque enough for dark shirts
    • May still have toxic additives
    • Greater ink waste

    Plastisol vs. Water-Base Data Sheet
    [PDF, opens in new window]

Non-PVC Plastisol Inks

Even after eliminating phthalates from plastisol inks, the PVC in plastisol inks has it's own health and safety problems (link opens in new window). New plastisol inks that do not use any PVC are currently available on the market.

The environmental compliance of these new non-PVC plastisol inks has not yet been certified and many of the specialty inks we use still haven't been developed. We reevaluate these new inks regularly and will switch over as soon as they are certified and available in a similar variety of colors and textures we currently offer.

Ink Waste

When we print your shirts there is a significant amount of ink that ends up somewhere other than on your t-shirt. We call this ink waste. Working on this problem isn't just good for the environment, it also saves on expenses!

To produce a consistent image, we have to put a lot of excess ink in each screen. The extra ink helps to push the rest of the ink through the screen. We manage how much excess ink we produce and carefully reuse ink whenever possible. When we dispose of ink, we use one of two responsible methods.

Reducing ink waste We mix every ink color to order so that we never have to worry about disposing of significant quantities of unused ink. (With the exception of white and gold ink, which we reliably use in very large quantities and purchase pre-mixed.) We offer a limited color selection so that any extra ink can be reused in the next order. Ink never "spoils" so it can be reused for a long time.

Reusing ink waste The excess ink left in the screen after printing each job is carefully scooped out and reused in the next job which uses that ink color. The remaining film of ink is wiped off with a rag (reused t-shirt material).

Properly disposing of ink waste The final step is to take the screen and clean it with a solution that dissolves the remaining ink solids. Filters remove the ink from the cleaning solution so the the cleaning solution can be reused. The filters containing the ink solids are sent to a waste treatment facility to ensure they are disposed of properly. The only ink that is waste is on the reused t-shirt rags we use to clean the screens. After many uses, the rags are heated to a temperature that makes the ink inert and safe for disposal.