Can my paper bags be printed with soy ink? As a manufacturer and printer of paper bags, we are often asked this question by clients who want to make their packaging as environmentally friendly as possible. WCI does not print our paper bags with soy or vegetable-based inks. Our bags are printed with water based inks. What’s the difference?
Colorful Printed Paper BagsYears ago, petroleum was the main vehicle for the pigment in printing inks. Starting in the 1980s, environmental restrictions caused printers to make changes and water based inks emerged. Today, as inks evolve, many commercial printing inks use water or vegetable oil to replace petroleum as a vehicle for the pigment in an effort to reduce or eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). The vehicle used depends on the printing process.

Printed Paper Bag

Here are some important considerations when researching different types of ink:

Soy/Vegetable Based Inks:

  • While soy and vegetable inks are growing in popularity for offset lithographic printing of magazines, posters, folders, and other products they are not appropriate for use in flexographic printing processes.
  • Vegetable-based inks are often made from Chia, Flax (Linseed), Castor, Canola, Safflower, Soy, or a combination of any/all of them.
  • Here is an interesting link from TriplePundit with more information for customers considering soy based inks for their printed packaging or documents.

Water Based Inks:

  • Water-based flexographic printing inks are continuing to grow in popularity due to their low cost and environmentally friendly nature. They are used in the printing of packaging materials, paper bags, cardboard and other porous substrates.
  • Water is safe, stable and recoverable.
  • Water-based printing processes have been around for decades; they eliminate or reduce the use of petroleum-based solvents, which increase levels of VOC’s, toxic substances, and energy consumption.
  • Our water based flexographic inks are composed of approximately 50 percent water, have virtually zero VOC’s, Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP’s), and contain no heavy metals.

Clients who consider ink ingredients an important factor in their buying decision should also take into account the recycle programs and inventory maintenance methods in place at a printer or manufacturer. At WCI, we take our commitment to the environment very seriously and have implemented measures to ensure that our ink is effectively utilized and recycled.

Ink Mixing Machine for Paper Bags

The WCI production facility has implemented LEAN manufacturing procedures and utilizes a SPEC ink mixing, dispensing, and storage system to more accurately calculate required ink and to reformulate work-off ink. Any ink not reformulated is mixed to black, entirely eliminating waste.

In summary, different printing processes require different vehicles for pigments in order for ink to transfer onto the desired substrate. Each process offers environmentally friendly options. Paper bags manufactured at WCI are printed with water based inks specifically made for flexographic printing. Our bags are recyclable, biodegradable and make an excellent choice for any business that makes the environment a priority when purchasing their packaging.


Wisconsin Converting, Inc. is located in Green Bay, WI and manufactures paper bags including merchandise bags, pharmacy bagsSOS bags, and hardware bags  for retail, foodservice and industrial customers nationwide. WCI also is a top provider of paper shipping and mailing bags for retail and e-commerce customers.