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2014-01-20   ICS


When local schools reopen for the spring semester, many primary and middle school students will get new textbooks that feature environmentally-friendly printing technology. Education authorities say the paper in the books either comes from a sustainable forest source or was recycled. And they say the books will contain no heavy metals or organic volatile matter. Our reporter Song Wenjing has more.

At this printing plant in suburban Baoshan District, the presses are rolling for the new textbooks. The Shanghai Printing Group has introduced flexographic printing technology for the books using water-based ink. Until now, most books have been printed on an offset press using oil-based ink that inevitably contains harmful chemicals like lead, mercury and chromium.

Wang Xuping, Manager//Shanghai Printing Group
Shanghai started to introduce environmentally friendly textbooks in 2010, and you may already see some textbooks have a mark showing they are environmentally friendly. That means fewer harmful chemicals. But this is the first time that we've shifted to a different printing technology, and can reduce the harmful chemicals to zero.

Wang says the technology had been used mainly on food and drug packaging, as well as patterns on toys. The first batch of 450-thousand new green textbooks will cover six subjects like English, arts and history.

Song Wenjing, Reporter
This new 6th-grade English textbook has almost no ink smell, and even if a page gets wet, no ink is left on my hand. Although the current textbooks sill meet national standards, they contain dangerous chemicals like volatile organic matter and heavy metals.

Xu Chuang, Workshop Manager//Shanghai Printing Group
In the past we used volatile solvents to wash the printing plates, and harmful chemicals might come off on bookpages. Now we use non-woven fabrics to clean the plates. It's a physical way, and there are recycling companies that help deal with the leftover fabrics.

But not surprisingly, cost is always a problem. The cost of printing 10 thousand eco-friendly textbooks is more than 20 times higher than normal printing. The company got a government subsidy of 10 million yuan to ensure that textbook prices don't go up.

Wang Xuping, Manager//Shanghai Printing Group
For now our machine is not working at its full capacity, so it is not making money. We estimate that when the number of text books reaches more than 50-thousand, the cost can be lowered by 50 percent.

Shanghai education authorities say they will add even more environmentally-friendly textbooks next fall involving a wider range of subjects. Shanghai schools use 60 million textbooks every year. But the printing house says there's a long way to go before the technology can be used to print other types of books that aren't in such big demand.

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