Commitment to Green Sustainability
Vision International embraces principles of sustainable development, including stewardship to the environment, contributions to society and the creation of economic value and worth. We have adopted strategies and business conduct that allow us and our stakeholders to realize our profit goals in ways that protect, sustain, and restore the Earth’s life support systems. As a result, we focus our sustainability efforts in these areas: the raw materials (substrate, inks, coatings, etc.); the manufacturing process, our end products and their end life uses; and the “envelope” (building, grounds, energy consumption, employees, etc.). We employ the principles of Reducing, Reusing/Re-purposing, and Recycling.
From our beginning, Vision has been committed to environmental stewardship; safety and health; and green labor practices for our customers, our employees and our vendors. We continue to work with local, state and federal agencies to be compliant with environmental laws and standards.
These green standards apply to the selection and retention of all suppliers that provide goods or services to Vision International and establish a framework that we consider important to a safe and healthy workplace, to the maintenance of fair and reasonable labor and human resource practices, and to the management of manufacturing and distribution operations to minimize adverse impact to the environment.
Vision International has implemented effective policies and practices that provide assurance that we are committed to supporting the goals of our customers, distributors and business partners. We continually refine these practices. To understand how we utilize our green standards, we must first identify what green and sustainability mean to Vision:
This term refers to anything we use or produce that can be 1) reused/repurposed or 2) reconstituted or converted into something else of use. For many years we have been using printing substrates that are recyclable. New materials are being introduced that are more green all the time. We regularly reuse our vinyl in many different ways (internally and externally) and encourage end users to do the same.
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Reusing and repurposing refers to taking an end use product and reusing it (like recycled paper, bottles, cardboard, etc.). In our industry, posting plants have hand-painted over a printed image many times to get as much life out of the vinyl board as possible. Thus they can “recycle” our product many times.
The argument for recycling vinyl has been that vinyl fills up our landfills, has a half-life of thousands of years and is not biodegradable. We advocate that reuse all depends who has a need to fill. Thinking outside the box has led us to conclude that any substrate need can be a positive one for the environment. For example, many landfills are actually looking for vinyl to line the bottom layers of their landfill operations so that potentially hazardous postconsumer waste does not seep into the ground water. One of our vinyl vendors completed a huge project where they were contracted to make a liner between islands off Indonesia in an area that will be used as a landfill. Eventually the islands will be linked together by a land bridge comprised of postconsumer waste covered with topsoil. The vinyl is being used as a barrier to keep the ocean clean without affecting the ecosystem. Incidentally, they used as much virgin vinyl on that project as we have used over the past three years. Once the project is complete, there will be vegetation growing in the top soil to help sustain the island chain.
Vinyl has been used in superfund cleanups of old smelter sites, in construction, home and farm applications. We have been providing our used billboards to lumber companies and hay farmers for many years. Even developing countries are clamoring for used vinyl for temporary shelters and protective liners. While these uses are not traditionally thought of when thinking of recycling, we embrace all manners of true recycling.
The best news is that many innovative companies have now developed a multitude of alternative ways to use discarded vinyl for conversion and repurposing. Reusing vinyl is only limited by the innovation of the end user. In each of the three main areas of Sustainable Development – respect for the environment, promoting economic vitality and assisting social progress – reusing/repurposing vinyl has an outstanding role to play.
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Conversion is taking the used product and converting it for an entirely different use outside the original intended use. There are several recyclers with nationwide programs that take old vinyl to regrind it into a powder for all sorts of uses. It is being used for playground equipment, Trex decking material, railroad ties, road base, sound deadening materials, and carpet backing, just to name a few. One of our vinyl vendors takes back their used vinyl to reformulate into roofing membranes. This greatly reduces their raw material consumption for that product saving them money and energy.
These are just a few of the uses. Vision is networked in the recycling community to discover new avenues of converting our products. This type of recycling includes all polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene (PE) vinyl.
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In this case, the end product must decompose into inert elements in a reasonable time frame as to not upset the ecosystem. Standard PVC and PE vinyl breaks down over many hundreds of years. Those most concerned with the environment want something that will break down in a much shorter time frame. Biodegradable materials are the best for our environment as they greatly reduce any impact to the Earth. Biodegradable materials eliminate the need for reprocessing to close the loop from cradle to grave use of a product. We offer several biodegradable materials such as BIOflex which is one of the most comprehensive biodegradable products in our industry.
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Examples of our on-going sustainability programs and green procedures:
Reducing (including Energy and Water Conservation)
Vision hired an internal facilities maintenance staff that continuously monitors all HVAC systems, water consumption, appliances, electrical, lighting, company vehicles and all other equipment to insure they are maximizing their energy use for efficiencies and spikes in usage as well as keeping all equipment running to factory specifications;
We subscribe to the “Energy Star” program (i.e. replaced inefficient appliances and equipment with low energy models);
We installed an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) back-up and other power conditioners in our building to limit power usage and condition the power used thus lowering usage by eliminating power spikes and drops in power and increasing equipment longevity;
We replaced/installed energy efficient lighting (CFL’s, fluorescents tubes, etc.) in our facility;
We installed programmable thermostats to control the HVAC environment of the entire facility;
We utilize energy saving settings on all equipment that allows it (computers, copy machines, fax machines, etc);
Lights are turned off if the office is not used for more than two minutes and task lighting is used rather than overhead lighting whenever possible;
All equipment is turned off at night or when not in use (including office machinery like copy machines and computers);
Each night a walk-through inspection is made to ensure all lights and other non-essential items like coffee machines, are turned off;
Our production facility is fully insulated;
We use daylight from windows, sky lighting, etc., whenever possible;
We installed blinds and shades on all windows to allow sunlight in/out to help keep ambient temperature constant as well as tinted Low-E glass;
We installed paperless fax machines on the computers to save paper;
When possible, we buy permanent items instead of disposables (i.e. rechargeable batteries);
We have become more efficient to consolidate production;
Many employees car pool, ride mass transit, ride bicycles, ride motorcycles or other hybrid vehicles and still others are using natural gas vehicles or have bought vehicles that get better gas mileage;
Some employees are able to telecommute by working from their homes;
We use live vegetation throughout the plant and the offices to offset any volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) produced;
Landscaping includes planting native plants that use less water;
We set timers on outside water to come on in early morning/evening hours, maximizing water use and minimizing evaporation;
We check our sprinklers often for correct position and operation;
We use low-flow toilets and faucets in restrooms.
We repair items when possible. Vision employs a full-time maintenance staff to repair all equipment, facilities and grounds;
We clean and reuse containers (such as propane tanks, ink containers, etc.);
We reuse packaging materials;
Scrap vinyl is reused/repurposed;
Core tubes are reused/recycled;
Product trim waste is reused.
We Recycling the Following:
Lighting, oil, used ink and other solvents. For example, all liquid hazardous waste is used as fuel in cement kilns;
Paper, plastic, cardboard and aluminum are dropped off at local recycling centers;
Toner, laser and ink jet printer cartridges;
Corrugated cardboard and office paper;
Product trim waste;
Substrates including vinyl/fabric.
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We work with all city, state and federal agencies to ensure we are in compliance and are aware of all changes to regulations. This includes consultation visits on-site for inspections. These agencies monitor how we handle and dispose of any hazardous waste and our environmental response issues. They monitor our water and air quality both inside and outside our building for adherence to state and federal standards. As for air quality, they test for hydrogen chloride, VOC emissions, mercury, cadmium and dioxins. We were not only found to be in compliance in every aspect, but had less waste than most businesses our size. We have implemented an internal recycled air flow in our building. While this does not include VOC scrubbers, we are well below the state level for VOC emissions. As these regulations tighten in the future, so will our determination to eliminate these VOC’s.
The agencies include:
- City of Salt Lake City (water and sewer use)
- Salt Lake City Fire Department
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality
(which examines our water and air quality)
- Utah State Labor Commission (UOSH)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
We are also members of the Utah Safety Council and work with National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to ensure we offer a safe work environment for our employees and visitors.
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Vision's Commitment to Using Sustainable Products:
We carefully and thoughtfully seek out printing substrates, vendors and print partners that complement our green philosophy. We encourage them to develop greener products so we may utilize them in our production. By far the greenest form of substrates we use are biodegradable. Here is a synopsis of the materials and products we offer:
We offer paper, textiles and a line of PVC vinyl that are all biodegradable. Paper is the most biodegradable as it will break down to it’s basic inert elements the quickest. Most textile (fabric) products degrade in a much shorter time frame than vinyl, usually a few years compared to hundreds of years. Consequently, textiles can be substituted for PVC to meet our customers’ requirement of a biodegradable product for banners, etc. BIOflex is a standard flex vinyl that will decompose into inert material in just a few short years. It currently is the only vinyl that is fully biodegradable (PE material is not biodegradable).
To get an ink that is sturdy enough to weather the harsh UV exposure and outdoor conditions, provide great color reproduction and be able to spray through the fine printing heads on our printing equipment is a tough task indeed. Now add that the pigments need to be biodegradable, too. To get the kind of durability our customers require for outdoor/long-term work requires automotive grade pigments. These pigments can only be used in solvent-based inks and in some UV inks. We use eco-friendly solvent inks in our smaller presses which have low VOC’s. The milder solvent ink we use in our grand format equipment is produced using energy bought from reclaimed methane gas from our vendors’ local landfill. These inks have less impact to our ozone layer than many other harsher solvent-based inks. Even when no truly sustainable product is available, we choose to use vendors who are thinking and employing green principles.
There are corn-based solvent inks which are available and can be requested by our clients. On the positive side, it meets many of the requirements of our customers’ biodegradable needs especially when used in conjunction with BIOflex vinyl. One drawback to these inks is that the colors are not as intense, thereby compromising the deep reds, greens and purples that we routinely match with our current ink set. Corn-based inks are also very expensive and they do not dry as fast. Our presses would need to run at slower speeds, increasing energy costs and time to produce, thereby increasing our carbon footprint. In this case, the green ink product does not fulfill the quality expectations of many of our customers. In evaluating the sustainability of this product, we are better served by using our current inks. Just because an individual component is considered green doesn’t mean that the finished product will be green. Vision evaluates the entire life and carbon use of a product to determine how sustainable it truly is. Perhaps as market conditions change, and with more research and development by the manufacturer, the issues with this corn-based ink can be overcome.
Vision also uses aqueous-based dye sublimation inks that are biodegradable. These inks are only compatible with the textile and fabric substrates and are the most environmentally friendly products we offer. They are extremely durable and will weather intense UV exposure outside. Instead of using vinyl, many banners and other forms of advertising can be printed using these extremely durable fabrics and inks.
Vision's Products: (GreenLite Products)
GreenLite substrates are composed of materials that are deemed to be environmentally friendly. Whether recyclable, biodegradable, carbon-neutral, or cleanly manufactured, these media can be added to any portfolio where preserving the environment is desired. We are continuing our efforts to minimize our carbon-footprint. As further innovations and strategic developments arise, we will continue to refine these products toward sustainability in the digital printing industry. Currently, we offer the following green products:
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) has a remarkable balance of properties; it is strong, resistant to oil, chemicals, sunlight and weathering. PVC vinyl can also be flame resistant, easily decorated and low in cost. PVC is being recycled all over the world. We have the proper resources at our disposal to accommodate this PVC recycling effort. Simply return the PVC to us and we can have it recycled in one of many different ways. Within the last decade, several viable methods for recycling PVC have been developed.
In addition to our standard recyclable billboard PVC product, we now offer a lighter weight version. Stronger than polyethylene (PE), this material images as well as our main billboard vinyl yet has less of an environmental footprint than our standard vinyl. It offers the same print surface as our current vinyl and can be used in rotation programs. Other benefits include:
- Up to 60% lighter weight
- Lower overall fuel costs – more yards per truckload
- Easier billboard installations
- High quality graphic images (compared to PE boards)
- Eco-friendly alternative
We also offer the first and only biodegradable PVC. BIOflex has been engineered to be the first truly environmentally friendly, biodegradable PVC. It has a nontoxic formula that, at very low levels, enables landfill decomposition of BIOflex PVC. In the landfill, the carbon and hydrogen content of BIOflex are partly consumed by the biomass organisms and partly released as methane from fermentation. In a well managed landfill, methane is harvested for use as fuel. The chlorine content of BIOflex is partly consumed and partly converted to soluble chloride; this has value as fertilizer since it makes soil nitrogen more rapidly available to plants. In experiments using landfill into which BIOflex had decomposed as compost in potting soil, plants and vegetables sprouted more rapidly than in controls. BIOflex has earned its reputation as an eco-friendly option for sign media. This media is being widely used all over Europe.
While BIOflex is a little more expensive than traditional PVC vinyl, savvy customers who are concerned for the environment will realize that to truly recycle standard PVC there are additional costs that make BIOflex more of an option. Collection, sorting and palletizing costs, as well as shipping costs to the recycler, all make BIOflex a bargain for the green customer. And it eliminates any doubt about the final end result of the product.
Like PVC, polyethylene (PE) is recyclable and is extremely lightweight. It therefore lessens the amount of harmful fuel emissions through transportation. PE was incorporated into our line to support the outdoor advertising industry by offering an environmentally friendly alternative to heavier PVC vinyl for billboards. While this media is not as strong and does not image as well as PVC, it is easily installed because of its weight, texture and durability. It is 100% recyclable, but it is not biodegradable. If put in a landfill, PE will react exactly as PVC vinyl. This material must be delivered to a recycling center to be reclaimed and recycled, just like PVC.
All of our textiles are earth-friendly. The polyester used in the manufacturing process is made of either 20% recycled or 100% recycled polyester yarn made from both postconsumer and postindustrial waste. It is 100% recyclable.
Starting the design process at the molecular level, our vendors are able to analyze every ingredient in polyester and choose dyestuffs, auxiliary chemicals, and a catalyst that are safe and environmentally sound. This creates the opportunity to transform recycling from a costly waste management strategy into a system that eliminates waste. They also use a water-based coating technology in these textiles which is extremely earth-friendly; between 75% and 90% of the coatings are biodegradable. A few of the textiles are even made of 100% natural and organic materials such as plant fibers and cotton. They are innately biodegradable/compostable and recyclable. As part of the dyeing process, they report saving 18 gallons of water per pound of yarn produced. They reclaim the water and energy (which are recycled repeatedly) from condensation and dye-baths, which helps heat the plant and conserve water. These fabrics come in a soft knit, a poly knit, a heavy knit and a stretch knit. Both fire retardant and non-fire retardant textiles are available.
Wet-strength paper is still a viable option when considering green substrates. It is still the substrate least harmful to our environment as it is completely biodegradable and has the smallest impact in a landfill. It will degrade faster than other substrates. Many of the pastes used to post 30-sheet boards are made from potato or other compostable starches which are biodegradable.
Pressure Sensitive Vinyl
Unfortunately, pressure sensitive vinyl is currently not recyclable nor biodegradable. However, we are working with a manufacturer that will shortly introduce a polyolefin version of their PVC pressure sensitive vinyl. Polyolefin is made with less energy than PVC so it will be a more green solution.
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Vision’s Commitment to Recycling Postconsumer Products:
Vision International is committed to producing environment-friendly products from cradle to grave. We purchase the greenest substrates from our vendors. We use manufacturing techniques which minimize the impact to our environment. For example, we reduce our VOC’s from the ink as it evaporates, reduce our energy and water requirements, minimize our waste and recycle everything we can. Finally, we work to see that our printed materials are recycled, reused or repurposed.
In certain cases we work with clients directly to insure the used boards are recycled properly. Depending on the substrates used, we have several recycling options at our disposal. We even have our used substrates made into decorative bags. This can be done with exclusive billboard campaigns and sold as commemorative bags and totes.
We encourage customers to return all boards to Vision where we can sort, bale and palletize the different substrates in order to employ the best recycling option. This allows Vision to control where and how the used substrates end up and for what purpose they are used. If the customer wants, they can request the posting company save the corrugated box the board was delivered in to return the board to Vision. We can then recycle the packaging materials as well as the printing substrate.
Sustainability the Vision Way
Vision International has instituted programs, procedures and standards to be stewards to the environment, contribute to society and to create economic value and worth. We have adopted strategies and business conduct that allow us and our stakeholders to realize our profit goals in ways that protect, sustain, and restore the Earth’s life support systems. We employ the principles of Reducing, Reusing, Re-purposing, and Recycling. At Vision, we are continually looking to do our part to create a better world.
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