Hubergroup ditches cobalt inks

Hubergroup in Europe has ditched cobalt in its sheetfed inks, three years after introducing its cobalt-free option. It is unconfirmed whether the Australian division will follow suit.

The company has ditched cobalt due to supply and environmental issues. Cobalt siccatives are additives in offset ink that accelerate chemical curing of the color film.

Although cobalt can be found in the environment and even in the human body, many compounds that contain cobalt are thought to be toxic, and may endanger the environment, and are consequently registered on many exclusion lists.

Hubergroup says its alternative cobalt-free siccative system for oxidatively drying sheetfed inks is environmentally friendly, and conforms to European eco-certifications Nordic Swan, German Blue Angel and Cradle to Cradle.

The three-year period was used to confirm ink quality and consistency remain unchanged, which the company and users believe has been achieved.

Demand for cobalt worldwide is reaching a crucial threshold where it will outstrip supply, leading to a spike in price last year of $47,000 per tonne.

Commodities researcher Lara Smith says in 2016, the supply of cobalt was 104,000 tonnes with demand at 103,500 tonnes. Toronto-based CEO Trent Mell of the First Cobalt Corporation says that demand is expected to grow 5 per cent per annum for the next five years, while bringing new mines up to production can take up to 10 years.

While it has traditionally been used in pottery to give a deep blue hue, cobalt is now used in smartphones and electric vehicles, which Mell predicts to proliferate by 26 per cent this year alone.

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