CreateSpace (an Amazon company) uses a print-on-demand (POD) digital printing process. At Salt River we use createspace for printing our books. Here is a helpful answer from Lighthouse24 in the createspace Community discussion forum, discussing the green and not-so-green aspects of printing anywhere:
Re: GREEN PRINTING (Recycling Paper – Env Friendly Ink) ?
CreateSpace doesn’t typically respond to posts in this community, but I might be able to offer some insight into the technological aspects of these issues.
Unlike offset presses that use regular inks, digital presses (used for on-demand books) utilize an electrophotographic process where dry ink or toner is fused to the paper. A high-end digital press can print 160 two-up duplex sheets (640 book pages) a minute. To get high quality images at that speed, the tiny particles of toner that are being affixed to the paper must be perfectly shaped and “behave” in a totally predictable way. So changing to a different type of toner is not something CS can just decide to do — the equipment manufacturer has to make a suitable product available. Some manufacturers have, and for all I know CS could be using some of their equipment and those products.
The paper itself also affects how the toner “behaves,” and that significantly impacts print quality. Recycled paper has substrates that do not allow the toner to fuse evenly (the way it does on smooth paper designed for digital printing) — so text and images digitally printed on recycled paper vary in lightness and darkness as you look at the page. Worse, the intense heat associated with the digital printing process causes recycled paper to give off chloroform gas, so unless the press room is carefully and specially ventilated, using it is hazardous to the workers. Just last week, a company announced the development of the first recycled paper that is supposedly safe and suitable for digital presses, but it is still too new to have been certified for use yet (but I know at least one manufacturer is actively testing it and moving in that direction).
Bottom line, CS can’t really offer something to us until it’s available to them. In the meantime, it’s worth remembering that digital print-on-demand is, in itself, an eco-friendly process — instead of printing 10,000 books and eventually destroying the 9,000 of them that never sell, we only print books as needed/wanted (less waste and pollution throughout the life-cycle).
Even though it’s not a response from CS, I hope this helps address your question. Best wishes.
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