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Finding alternatives to PVC

Graphics | May 1, 2008 | By:

Where would your business be without PVC? It’s understandable why PVC banner media is ubiquitous in the sign industry—it’s cheap, durable, and prints easily. And it’s also understandable why there is interest in finding alternatives: The PVC manufacturing process is believed to be toxic to humans and the environment, and it’s typically not recyclable.

Flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is manufactured using compounds known as plasticizers, which make the material soft, flexible—and a potential health hazard (it’s the off-gassing plasticizers that result in the “new car smell”). While movements to restrict and outright ban PVC have focused largely on consumer products like toys and packaging, several print media manufacturers have introduced new fabrics that maintain print quality and ease while providing more sustainable solutions. In 2007, Forti-Plast LLC, Grand Prairie, Texas, introduced the Forti-Banner™, a lightweight, strong LDPE-coated polypropylene fabric that is recyclable.

“I think the end user wants a more competitive lightweight product ” Forti-Plast president David Jacobs says.

The Forti-Banner’s lighter weight makes it easier to manage than PVC on the installation, and when it’s taken down, there is recyclable value in the raw material, Jacobs says. Made in the U.S., it’s less expensive than the 13-ounce PVC banner with which it compares.

“It performs very well outdoors,” Jacobs says. “We have a standard of a one-year, outdoor durability, but we can soup it up if you need additional protection.”

Evolon®, from Freudenberg Nonwovens, Durham, N.C., features a matte artistic look, offers dual-sided printing, retains a textile-like feel and is both strong and lightweight.

“[Evolon is] made with polyester nylon, and essentially all we do is finish it and fracture it with high-pressure water jets,” Freudenberg segment business manager Terry O’Regan says. “The water we use is 100 percent recycled…it is a pretty environmentally friendly manufacturing process.”

Evolon is available in product lines optimized for various digital printing technologies and inks, and also is offered in a flame-retardant version. The media is more expensive than PVC media, but the superior print quality, and its environmentally friendly features, make it a desirable choice, O’Regan says.

“I’m looking at a banner here that’s a bunch of Coke bottles floating in ice water. You literally almost feel like you’ll get wet,” he says. “The clarity and the color of print is really spectacular.”
Jill C. Lafferty is a freelance writer based in Burnsville, Minn.


Forti-Plast LLC

Freudenberg Evolon


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