Developing sustainable substrates

Photos courtesy GBC

Photos courtesy GBC

SuperC St-Laurent English

By Peter Saunders
In September 2011, Groupe BO Concept (GBC), a sign and graphics provider based in Anjou, Que., implemented a point-of-purchase (POP) graphic system for the fresh produce section of Metro Richelieu’s new Super C grocery store in nearby Saint-Laurent, Que. GBC’s mandate was to produce large panels with high-quality printed graphics and excellent dimensional stability, while also meeting Metro’s own environmental objectives.

With the theme ‘Freshness you can C,’ the project was co-ordinated by GBC account manager Marc-André Léonard and managed by advertising production and distribution manager Mélanie Bisaillon-Varin, with the assistance of Metro’s in-store experience manager, Nathalie Lortie.

“Rethinking our displays and finding ways to make them more environmentally friendly are among our priorities and commitments,” says Lortie, noting Super C’s initiatives include offering reusable shopping bags as early as 2006.

So, instead of the typical polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foam panels, the team turned to a series of 1.6 x 3.2-m (63 x 126-in.) paper-based boards. Some were used simply to display two-dimensional (2-D) graphics, while others were assembled on-site as produce bins.

POP graphics for Metro Richelieu’s new Super C grocery store in Saint-Laurent, Que., use paper-based boards instead of PVC foam panels.

International Cuisine POP graphics for Metro Richelieu’s new Super C grocery store in Saint-Laurent, Que., use paper-based boards instead of PVC foam panels.

The substrate GBC used is engineered with a fluted core to provide both strength and low weight. It features an embedded low-density polyethylene (LDPE) moisture barrier to protect this core against humidity.

The paper content in the board includes 80 per cent fibre certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and 20 per cent post-consumer recycled paper. Assembled using water-based adhesives, the board can be recycled in regular waste-paper streams or composted.

“With a small carbon footprint, it responds to Metro’s environmental objectives,” says Pierre Lachapelle, sales and marketing manager for GBC.

Atypical sources
The new POP graphics for Super C are just one recent example of how the sign industry and its customers are embracing ‘green’ substrates for digital inkjet printing. These materials may contain recycled content, be assembled without hazardous chemicals and/or be recycled or composted themselves after use. There is no single, simple definition of a green substrate, as different materials can have different environmentally friendly attributes.

Fabrics, for example, can help reduce the carbon footprint of graphic shipments because they are so much lighter than other substrates. They can also often be repurposed after use in graphic applications for decorative and accessory markets.

As director of surface imaging for Designtex, which prints on commercial and institutional upholstery and furnishings, David Siegel has looked to a variety of alternative materials for graphic applications, including the following examples:

  • Recycled-paper rigid boards instead of plastic composites.
  • Polyester fabrics instead of PVC.
  • Recycled-content wood board instead of expanded PVC.

He suggests alternative substrates can be developed from atypical sources, including reclaimed wood, newsprint, corrugated board, ceiling tiles, metal and kraft paper.

“Paper-based substrates can provide the same durability for wallcoverings as PVC, for example,” he says. “Low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a priority today, especially for customers in health care and education.”