How to Make Printed Training Materials Environmentally Friendly

Insights How to Make Printed Training Materials Environmentally Friendly

We are often asked how we can make the printed training materials more environmentally friendly and so in this blog post we give some simple top recommendations. Of course, some of the issues are quite complex, such as the use of virgin vs recycled paper, where the answer is less than straight forward.

Avoid Ring Binders?

Generally ring binders are made from a combination of plastics including vinyl and PVC – neither of which can be recycled easily. Paper over board binders are available but are expensive if the binder is to be branded in any way. The advantage of ring binders is the convenience and the ability to add pre-punched handouts. If the ring binder is to be used in this way, as a future reference guide then perhaps the not being able to recycle the binder is a none issue. 

Avoid Perfect Binding

Although perfect binding can often be done with hot wax (the method PDI uses) rather than PUR – unless the binding is trimmed off the wax needs to be removed from the pulp during the recycling process and many companies will just discard perfect bound books.

Bind by Wire

Either as a wiro bound manual or as a saddle stitch book – the wire can be removed and can itself be recycled.This is the optimum binding from an environmental point of view.

Avoid Acetate Covers

Acetate (clear or frosted) adds a really professional look to a wiro book – it is unfortunately not recyclable. Think about using card covers and backs. If you like the frosted acetate look there is a semi-translucent paper equivalent which is fully biodegradable.

Recycled Paper

Many arguments about this but most agree that a virgin paper from sustainable PFC forests is more environmentally friendly then recycled paper (see our full blog at Is Recycled Environmentally Friendly. PDI has chosen to use sustainable PFC paper as a matter of routine but we will print on recycled if that is your preference.


Outer cardboard cases are fine both recyclable and often with a high recycled content.

Shrink wrapping could be avoided since it does keep the product in good condition whilst in transport but invariably is never recycled.

Filler packaging is the other major issue with PDI choosing to use recycled paper fillers rather than polystryrene or bubble wrap

We have in the past used a polystyrene chip filler or at least a biodegradable starch based alternative. However, we have had complaints that this goes everywhere in the training room and is difficult to handle. ‘Biodegradable’ bubble wrap is available but there are those that say this is not truly biodegradable in normal landfill and is a very expensive ‘greenwash’.

Biodegradable Pens

If you send a branded pen out with your materials we have found a ‘plastic’ ball pen which is actually made using a starch based product based on sugar cane. It is  more expensive (isn’t it always) but does mean the pen is biodegradable

Zero Carbon Shipping

Choose your shipping supplier with care - some parcel cariers (including the one used by PDI) are carbon neutral. Using sustainable sources of power across thir organisation and offsetting the CO2 used in shipping across various recognised off-setting programmes