Tattooing is a Waste: One Artist's Journey to Making the Industry More Sustainable - Tattoo Ideas, Artists and Models

Cover photo by Jenah Yamamoto

In the last decade or two, tattooing has moved away from reusable supplies and in the direction of single use products. Back when I worked as an assistant in a tattoo shop, most of the artists had coil machines and I spent hours each day scrubbing steel tubes and sanitizing each piece in an autoclave. It was my most important responsibility in that job and without me, the artists would need to take time out of their drawing to get it done. However, working this way has become less and less common. Now, most artists use disposable cartridges and throw away almost everything that comes in contact with the client during the tattoo process—from cling film to rinse cups to ink caps.

As tattooing has become more mainstream, waste from this industry has grown to a level where artists need to start thinking of our planet's future. That's where Dillon Forte comes in. He's created a line of biodegradable single use tattoo products that have the potential to make a big impact on the industry. He's put his focus into crafting biodegradable tattoo essentials, such as razors, cling wrap, ink caps and clip cord sleeves, which he believes can stand up in quality to the competition. We caught up with Forte to learn about why biodegradable tattoo products are essential to leaving a smaller ecological footprint and how he plans to take the industry by storm with Forte Tattoo Tech.

Why have many artists moved away from reusable tattoo products in favor of single use products?

Proper sterilization involved with autoclavable equipment requires a lot of space and time which lends itself to being less convenient, especially for travel. Not all products can be reused safely and that’s why we’ve developed this initiative.

How is tattoo waste disposed of and where does it go?

Anything that comes into contact with bodily fluids is considered a bio hazard and must be disposed of as regulated medical waste, it often ends up incinerated or in landfills. Since we aren't able to recycle any of the single use plastic involved in tattooing, biodegradable products are so essential.

Why is creating biodegradable tattoo supplies crucial?

Disposable products are essential to keeping the tattoo process safe and sterile. Creating biodegradable products is key for reducing the waste accumulated each day by the tattoo community.

Which tattoo products create the most waste?

The most waste is created by large items of plastic such as rinse cups, razors, ink caps, and barrier films like cellophane.

What biodegradable materials can be used to create tattoo supplies and how?

Our products are plastic-free, plant-based and made of renewable resources. We utilize the fibers of plants like sugarcane, hemp, corn and bamboo to create biodegradable alternatives to the typical single use products currently available.

What makes these products biodegradable?

Forte Tattoo Tech products are made from plant fibers that break down naturally and return to earth sustainably.

Are these materials safe and sanitary for tattooing?

Yes, in fact our products are remarkably similar to the products you’re currently using. They’re just made from sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.

What products do you hope to introduce in the future and how will you go about making them?

We plan to produce an environmentally beneficial alternative to nearly all tattoo products on the market. We are currently working on introducing a sustainable bamboo paper towel that is so durable, it actually helps reduce the amount you use each session.

Aside from your own social media, how do you plan to get the word out about your products?

Media formats like this are great ways to reach a larger audience and get the word out about the growing trend of conscious tattooing. We’ll also be attending more conventions and making what we have to offer as accessible and affordable as possible.

Aside from your products, how else can tattoo artists and enthusiasts work to be more sustainable?

You could always consider getting steel tubes, grips etc that can be autoclaved. Traditional tattooing procedures and protocols are effective means for providing a sterile and environmentally friendly tattoo experience once combined with our additional tools.