How a Sri Lankan publisher introduced ‘anti-microbial’ ink to assuage readers’ fears

Although the World Health Organisation has declared that newspapers are safe to touch during the COVID-19 pandemic, one Sri Lankan publisher apparently took their precautions a step further to ensure readers of the safety of their newspapers.

by Elizabeth Shilpa | August 4, 2020

Sri Lanka-based Liberty Publishers, which publishes Aruna (the second-largest circulated Sinhalese newspaper in Sri Lanka) and The Sunday Morning (an English language weekly newspaper) decided to print their newspapers using what they claim to be an “antimicrobial ink.”

“Our aim was to avoid any possibility of infection during the production process and to make the printed surface resistant to germs. This way, we felt it would keep away germs on the printed surface, at least for a short period, after the paper was in the reader’s hands,” says Thushara Thanaweera Arachchi, General Manager – Printing & Production at Liberty Publishers.

Developing the ink

Liberty’s daily newspaper circulation started dropping in March. The team then consulted the chemical and polymer experts of their local ink supplier, which also manufactures and trades chemicals other than ink. The experts came up with the proposal to make “anti-microbial ink” out of chemical biocides and herb extracts that kill germs.

According to the newspaper, the research and development was done in-house, trials on the machine were conducted, measures of biocides, herbals and preservatives were increased to make the effect last longer and the formula was finalised.

Background tones were added as much as possible to the inner pages to maximise the ink application area and chemical biocides were added to the water fountain.

The papers carried a herbal aroma to indicate the presence of the “special ink.”

Circulations improve

The Sunday MorningThe new ink increased their “ink and chemical” costs by around 50 percent, but Thanaweera says the sales of the newspapers picked up after they started using the ink.

“With the introduction of printing using this special ink our daily paper circulations started to grow again and people started to buy our paper over our competitors,” he says.

The company began printing the Daily Aruna from 18 March using the “special ink” and continued until 20 March. On 20 March the Sri Lankan government enforced curfew on the island for three days.

“After that from time to time we printed Daily Aruna, Weekend Aruna and The Sunday Morning using this ink. Our daily paper circulations started to increase and people started talking about it on social media,” Thanaweera says.

The curfew was extended in several regions even after 23 March making it difficut for the newspaper industry to function. So the newspaper publishers of the island nation took the joint decision to stop printing newspapers until 20 April.

“Our last print was Daily Aruna on 1 April. We will restart printing our papers with this ink as soon as the government lifts the curfew and will continue it till the pandemic is over,” Thanaweera says.

This isn’t the first time a Srilankan publisher has undertaken innovations in ink to fight a health crisis. Back in 2014, to mark the national Dengue week, the newspaper Mawbima, mixed Citronella, a natural insect/mosquito repellent with their ink, and used it to print big ads and posters during the week. On World Health Day, the same year, a whole edition of Mawbima was printed using the citronella-mixed-ink.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this story are of Liberty Publishers. WAN-IFRA does not authorise any of the claims made in this article.

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