Last week, I toured a printing facility, which is one of the best in the Phoenix area, if not the state. The firm does high-end printing at nearly photographic quality, using some amazing technology (which I won't bore you with). It prints Arizona Highways magazine, which is known for its breathtaking photography.
I also won't bore you with the details of the types of printing processes that we saw, but the experience shed light on a few mysteries, such as when our general manager tells us that a magazine page is due earlier than we thought because it falls on a "signature." Our other printer in California uses a 32-page signature, which means it is a HUGE piece of paper with 16 panels, double-sided, that is then folded and trimmed to individual pages into our magazine. As many times as she explained it, I didn't understand it until I saw it. If we have a 64-page magazine, that has two signatures. My GM was happy to disappear several blank stares when she refers to "signatures" in the future.
Anyway, in the binding area of our tour, the printer was working on programs for the Diamondbacks that are given out at every game. We noted barrels of spoilage along the assembly line.
"That's a lot of scrap," someone said.
"It all gets recycled," our tour guide replied.
I thought about that as we completed our tour and I saw what seemed to be as many spoils as there were good copies. It made me wonder if recycling has become justification for waste.
In the end, doesn't spoilage cost the company money in paper, ink, gloss, man-power and other variable expenses? The ink doesn't get recycled. The labor doesn't get recycled. The power used to fire up the machines doesn't get recycled.
Two nights later, I attended a Diamondbacks game and was handed the same program I assume I'd seen printed two mornings earlier. Everyone who walked through the turnstiles was handed a program, stacks of them lay in the suites, and some were scattered on empty seats (and there were A LOT of empty seats, though it's early in the season).
The post-game waste didn't bother me as much as the post-press waste. "We Recycle" has become this badge of honor that individuals and businesses wear to boast of their efforts to shrink carbon footprints, and kudos to all of us who do recycle.
I'm trying to think of a new mantra for the next phase of living green:
"Living Lean," "We Minimize Waste," "We Reduce Spoilage" ...