wraps waste

Wrap Tip: It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Justin Pate is a graphic installer/instructor with over 18 years experience working both in the United States and Europe. Justin teaches workshops across the world most notably for Avery Dennison and Mutoh in North America.  In 2014, Justin launched The Wrap Institute (www.wrapinstitute.com) which is a streaming video platform that builds upon his popular DVD series: Techniques and Tips (www.learntowrapcars.com). Currently, The Wrap Institute is comprised of over 160 HD streaming videos at over 22 hours that cover all aspects of graphic installations.  Every month new videos will be added so the content stays cutting edge and ever expanding.  For more information on Justin go to: www.justinpate.net or justinpatewrapper on Instagram.

As bright and colorful as the wrap industry is with the ability to transform mundane objects into commercial ads, custom designs and much more, there is an equally dark side. That side is the amount of waste and chemicals that go in the landfill, water and air from all facets of the wrap industry. Starting in 2017, one of the projects that we began working on at The Wrap Institute was how to come up with a free video series and an easy-to-implement, low-or-no-cost program that would show wrap shops and freelance installers how to make the wrap process greener.

During this research phase a very interesting pattern began to appear. For each area that we focused on—design, production, sales, manufacturing and install—all the environmentally friendly tips and protocol changes resulted in lower overhead and material costs, faster production and install times plus much more. This, of course, means higher profits, so by going Green in terms of being more environmentally conscious, it results in more Green (greenbacks/dollars/profits) generated. This is why we call the program Green = Green. It’s a win for both wrap shops, installers and Mother Nature.

The following covers several of the topics covered in the TWI Green = Green program:

I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to travel across the world the past few years teaching workshops. This means I visit a lot of great wrap shops, and one thing almost all of them have in common other than a passion for wraps is a dumpster that is overflowing out back. One of the main culprits of this is the backing paper or liners. Most liners used in the industry today aren’t recyclable, so they go in the landfill. On top of this, how the backing paper is disposed of magnifies the problem.

Most the time, it’s bunched up and stuffed in a trash can, which takes up a lot of space. (See Images 1, 2 and 3) This is a double whammy. Since my first DVD back in 2007 and the first workshop I taught back in 2009, I always pushed a one-trash-bag-install when wrapping a car. The liners are put under the car during the install and only the vinyl goes into a trash can. At the end of the day, once the car goes out, the liners that were lying flat under the vehicle are rolled up tight and then put in the one trash can.

Starting this year, I took this logic and applied it to the entire workspace and production areas. I call it the Central Lay Flat Liner Pile. All the liners from the workday are put in one central location. At the end of the day or even week the pile is rolled up. (See Image 8) This alone reduces what goes in the trash bin by well over 50% which can cut down the monthly trash bill (leading to higher profits). More importantly, it saves a huge amount of time during production and install. Instead of going out to the trash bin several times a day it’s now only done once. Less time is spent tamping down the dumpster to make space and more spent on installing, which is how it should be. On top of this, a blue and green reusable bin is added to the mix. Now plastic and paper get easily separated during standard workflow which results in even less going into the dumpsters. This results in more profitable work getting done and, an added bonus, a cleaner workspace. It sounds too simple to be true until you implement it which only requires a change in routine. How easy is that?

Cleaning is another way that, by choosing a more environmentally friendly direction, can result in higher profits without losing effectiveness. One of the best general cleaners out there is white vinegar. It’s readily available everywhere, is non-toxic, cheap and it cleans amazingly well. Of course, the only downside with white vinegar is the smell, which for me, is minor downside because, on top of cleaning so well, it also deionizes the surface. This means way less electrostatic charges, which means less dust and dirt sneaking under the wrap film during production and install.

An added bonus of white vinegar is that it can be used as a tack solution for PPF installs. This means avoiding having to use alcohol, which is worse for the environment and installers.

Steamers are another very green cleaning and adhesive promotor residue remover option that can significantly reduce labor and product costs. Encapsulating the emblems on a car with a steamer can lift all the double-sided tape off in one move. (See Images 4 and 5) This means no scraping and spraying down with toxic adhesive removers. For adhesive promotor residue, which is the bane of the wrap industry, taking it off with adhesive removers can involve using a lot of costly product and a toxic workspace. It can also take hours and hours along with being very frustrating to installers and owners as it keeps them doing low-profit tasks. Removing adhesive promotor residue with a steamer and brush attachment involves zero chemicals and takes only a matter of minutes. Yes, this means purchasing a steamer, which has a cost both in terms of money and the environment. (see Images 6 and 7) Yet, adding up all the chemicals avoided, along with money saved in labor hours, it is truly Green = Green.

The interesting topic now comes to wrap films. Most wrap films today, from full-print digital to color change, are made from PVC. As remarkable as PVC is in terms of stretch and performance, it has a lot of negative consequences for the environment both during the manufacturing process and when it reaches the landfill. This is one of the reasons why the manufacturers are coming out with PVC-free wrap film. These greener wrap films often come with a lot of positives other than simply being PVC-free. They can stretch better, they have a lower post-heating temperature and they often have longer warranties, particularly on the horizontals like roofs and hoods. 

The negatives are they can be difficult to cut (gummy) as they are polyurethane based, which is what PPF is made out of. Also, they generally have a higher price point. This price point makes a lot of customers and wraps shops balk at choosing them. The interesting thing is, if you “Do the Black and White” (a term I came up with for a previous WRAPS magazine article I wrote about breaking down the numbers to get the true story), choosing a slightly more expensive PVC-free film might be more profitable in the big picture. Since they weather better, clients will be happier with their investment and it also means they will remove easier (in one piece rather than lots of tiny pieces). This can lead to more volume in terms of sales and faster removal times.

The TWI Green = Green program has many topics and easy to implement solutions. Does it solve all the problems of the wrap industry in terms of waste and toxic chemicals? No. Yet, it hopefully brings this topic more into the overall conversation within the wrap industry.  In short, the goal of the TWI Green = Green program is to simply change some habits and workflow that can, if implemented by enough wrap shops and freelance installers, make a pleasantly significant impact.

All the TWI Green = Green videos can be seen on The Wrap Institute channels on YouTube, Vimeo and the Sign and Digital Graphics website.

Details, Details …

Liners—What Can and Cannot Be Recycled:

Polyester = Yes – Standard Plastic Recycling (Tint, Frosted and Top Sheets for color change films)

Kraft = Maybe* (Cut vinyl, premask, low budget print films)

Standard Liners = No** (Digital full print and color change films)

*not in the standard recycling but most local municipalities have programs for paper with a light coating of silicon

**due to the amount of silicon and other chemicals, these liners cannot be recycled. Yet, a few areas across the world have facilities that can remove the silicon by either mechanically skimming or steaming it off then recycling the paper. However, at this time, it’s not widespread enough to be a cost effective and practical option for wrap shops and installers.

Green Wrap Films:

3M:

Envision SV/LX480mC with 8549L/8448G/8550M overlaminates (High Performance)

Envision 48C-20R with 8048G/8050M overlaminates (Flat to Moderate Curves)

Orafol:

Orajet 3981RA with Oraguard 289F (High Performance)

Orajet 3174 with Oraguard 236 (Flat to Moderate Curves)

Avery Dennison:

MPI 1405 with DOL 6460 (High Performance)