Soybean, one of the most cultivated crops in the world, has again contributed to the advancement of human civilization. This time in the field of environmental protection and conservation. It was found out that its oil, commonly known as soybean oil, can contribute in the mitigation of pollution caused by petroleum-based inks. Soybean oil is not only the ordinary oil that we use in cooking but also the oil used in making soybean ink, considered as the most eco-friendly ink today. It is a popular alternative to the commonly used petroleum-based ink which was found to be dangerous to both the environment and human health.
Soy ink is made from soybean oil blended with pigments, waxes, and resins that are also found in petroleum-based inks. Unlike petroleum, soybean oil is biodegradable and of course renewable. Due to the presence of pigments, waxes, and resins, soy ink is not considered 100% biodegradable. But it is better than a petroleum-based ink that is non biodegradable and a potential pollutant to soil, air, and water.
Petroleum-based ink is considered a health risk to humans especially those working in the printing press. It contains volatile organic compounds that can irritate sensitive parts of our body such as the eyes, lungs, and skin. Long term exposure to these volatile compounds can cause diseases that will be difficult to treat. Petroleum-based inks contain volatile organic compounds to make them dry faster when fused to the paper. Soy ink doesn't contain volatile organic compound so it takes longer time for it to dry. This is a great challenge to publishers that use coated papers such as magazine papers; although, techniques are now being developed to solve this issue. Soybean ink, however, is perfect to the porous uncoated paper used in newspapers where the ink can dry up via IR in-line heaters or absorption. Due to this characteristic, more than one-third of America's nearly 10,000 newspaper printers use soy ink because it is more environment friendly and does not affect print quality.
Publishers claim more benefits in using soybean ink in printing. They claim that soy ink gives vibrant colors, greater rub resistance, cost effective, laser proof, and lithographically stable. With these impressive characteristics, soy ink can compete with conventional petroleum-based inks.
In terms of paper recycling, papers printed with soy ink are easier to de-ink compared to papers printed with petroleum-based ink. According to researchers at the Western Michigan University, papers that are easier to de-ink give less paper fiber damage and a brighter paper. The soy ink waste produced during the de-inking process is not considered hazardous and can be treated more easily, cost-effectively and completely.
Presently, soybean ink is commonly and largely used by newspaper publishers. With the advancement of printing technology, there would come a time when all printers in the world will use this eco-friendly ink.