Proposed Ban on Carbon Black Raises Red Flags for New York State Printers

A lack of understanding on the part of lawmakers could have a potentially devastating
effect on printing and packaging companies in the Empire State.

By Patrick Henry  Download full special edition here

Disclosure: the writer is a member of the Print and Graphic Communications Association (PGCA), which commissioned the article.

Printers and packaging manufacturers in New York State are reacting with alarm to proposed legislation that would effectively deprive them of one of their most essential raw materials: black ink.

In its sweeping mandate for change in how packaging intended for consumption in New York State would be made, recovered, and recycled, the legislation places carbon black on a list of toxic substances that could not be contained in packages and labels sold, offered for sale, or distributed into the state. Producers would have two years from enactment to completely eliminate carbon black from their packaging, after which violations could be adjudged and stiff fines imposed.

The potential crisis for printers stems from the fact that carbon black is an irreplaceable pigment for black inks as well as for many other colors into which it is blended. An added frustration is that when carbon black is incorporated into products such as printing ink, it is deemed non-hazardous by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other entities that monitor the health and safety impacts of toxic substances.

On a Fast Track

The legislation, known as the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, was first proposed in the New York State Senate and Assembly last year and was reintroduced with amendments in 2024. It is proceeding steadily through legislative review and could be ready for signature by Governor Kathy Hochul as early as June.

Eliminating inks containing carbon black would not only disrupt print manufacturing. It would also force the graphic redesign of packages and labels created in the CMYK color space – a description that applies to virtually all branded consumer product packaging. Brands and printers would also have to find ways to reproduce nutrition labels, scannable bar codes, and product information inserts without the K (black) component.

If carbon black is banned, “almost every item we make will be impacted,” says Daniel G. Keane, CEO of Mod-Pac, a producer of folding cartons and stock packaging in Buffalo, NY. While the company could run whatever alternative colors its customers choose, “they would have to rework all their items, which is a cost to the customer, and that’s going to be pushed through to the consumer.”

David Rydell, President of Diamond Packaging in Rochester, NY, foresees the same kind of upheaval if ink parameters must be changed.

. . . continue reading here

Contact your NYS Legislators to urge them to oppose the proposed ban on carbon black.  Visit PGCA’s Legislative Action Center to send them a letter.

Tim Freeman, Co-President
Print & Graphic Communications Association
(716) 691-3211

Leave a Reply