By Barbara Ernster
Different sustainable fabrics made of natural fibers, including cotton, bamboo, hemp, corn and soy products, are making their way into the printing market. Jon Weingarten, president and CEO of Dazian Fabrics in Secaucus, N.J., will present the pros and cons of each in his presentation at the Fabric Graphics symposium at IFAI Expo in Charlotte. But his main focus is on recycled polyester.
Polyester is still the most common fiber used in fabric printing because it offers the most flexibility and meets the equipment requirements that many printers have, Weingarten says. Recycled polyester allows them to use the same technology, and also do something positive for the environment. Two years ago, Dazian introduced a number of recycled polyester fabrics made from post industrial waste and post consumer plastic bottles, with expanded applications in the print, event, display, theater, and architectural markets. While recycled polyester does cost more at this stage, manufacturers all over the world are making it, and the market is “absolutely” asking for this, says Weingarten. “This is not just another fad; this is real, and it’s being driven from the bottom up.”
Companies like Banner Creations in Minneapolis, Minn., are already benefitting from this technology. For years the company tried to get customers interested in recycled polyester fabric banners, to no avail. After producing the banners for an Eco Experience display at the Minnesota State Fair in 2006, consumer interest exploded, and Banner Creations experienced a surge in new customers seeking green products.“That’s the biggest thing now; things have really taken off,” says owner Nora Norby, MFC. “Two years ago I didn’t have 200 new customers. Two years from now I really believe most of our business will be green, if not all.” Norby long ago switched to water-based inks and is now looking into direct-to-fabric dye sub printing equipment, which eliminates the need for paper. She currently carries three eco-friendly fabrics, and the ability to recycle banners is adding to their appeal.
“Everybody is working to close the loop in fabrics,” says Weingarten. “Many printers are taking their waste to recycling companies and there is a lot of conversation about getting the end users to send back banners for recycling. But nobody is able to deal with it at any scale. Nobody wants to be the one paying for it. It’s at the infancy stage.”