When people claim something is eco-friendly, there is usually some grey area where the product doesn't really hold up it to these claims. No more so is the case with soy ink which has long been touted as a very green solution to the harsh chemicals used in petroleum-based inks. This article is not intended to undermine the potential benefits of using soy ink, but will detail to you some widely held misconceptions about it.
Everything In Soy Ink Does not Come From Soy
One of the biggest misconceptions people have regarding soy ink is that all of its components are made from soy. Many of the other additives in soy ink, such as pigments, resins, film formers other chemicals come from renewable sources, however, there are plenty that do not. If a product carries the Soy Seal Logo it only needs to contain a certain amount of soy, which in some cases can be as low as 7%.
Soy Ink Can Emit Some VOCs
VOCs are volatile organic compounds – but it is important to make the distinction between VOC emission and VOC content. Whether it be for printing large posters or newspapers, or even something relatively small such as business card printing – when vegetable oils dry, they do emit some VOCs. Though it is true that soy ink generally emits fewer VOCs than conventional ink, it's not true to say it is emission free.
Soy Ink Does Not Facilitate Paper Recycling
This is a common myth read by many on the internet, that somehow soy ink magically makes everything more recyclable. This has no basis of truth in it. You may however have heard that soy ink is easier to remove from paper than conventional ink – though there was a study that did highlight this, the ink used in it had only been aged for 4 weeks. Experience in the industry will reveal a slightly different truth as vegetable-based ink can in fact be harder to remove from paper pulp due to the higher oxidation rate and cross-linking that occurs when it dries.
Soy Ink is Not Good For the Environment
The answer for this one is pretty simple and that's because no ink is 'good for the environment'. Though utilizing soy ink may be 'better for the environment' it is complete fallacy to say it is beneficial to it. Soy also may be a renewable source, but it does require diesel to grow. On the flip side of things, soy beans require very little chemical input than many other crops and it cannot be denied that vegetable-based inks are far less toxic than conventional inks.
Soy Ink: The Lowdown
So are soy and vegetable-based inks better for the environment as well as our own health? The answer is yes. The real myths lie in the way soy ink has been marketed to the industry, either as exaggerations or manipulations of the truth. So there you have it. Soy ink is a great substitute for all your printing needs but remember to be wary of those who try to hype it up into something that it really isn't.
This post is by Matt from Silver Image London. I have been in the printing industry for many years and I have seen our industry grow year on year.