Demand for Recycled Grows
The drive for recycled paper in the book industry seems to be picking up speed.
Twenty-five U.S. publishers have signed a letter of intent to begin phasing in post-consumer recycled paper over the next three to five years.
Indeed, publishers throughout North America are beginning to take strong stands on recycled paper. Canadian firms, such as Broadview Press of Calgary, Alberta, are making similar commitments.
The U.S. effort is spearheaded by the Green Press Initiative (GPI), a non-profit effort dedicated to preserving forests and natural resources.
"We're trying to mobilize the book publishing sector," says Tyson Miller, program director for the project. "They're major users of paper. We hope to show manufacturers and suppliers that there are markets for recycled paper."
The Green Press Initiative is a program of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, a 20-year old conservation organization based in Encinitas, Calif.
"Publishers are progressive," Miller says. "They're involved with spreading information and knowledge."
The 25 progressive publishers who joined the Green Press Initiative include Lantern Books, Island Press, Parallax Press, Chelsea Green, Cornell University Press, New World Library, Baker Book Group, South End Press, Weatherhill, Wisdom Publications, World Resources Institute, and Council Oak Books.
The publishers have outlined a three- to five-year period for converting their products to post-consumer recycled fibers, Miller says.
According to the timeline, publishers will begin using 30% post-consumer recycled paper on selected titles. In the second year, fully 25% of the publishers' titles will be printed on recycled paper. By the fifth year, virtually all titles will be printed using recycled paper.
While small and independent publishers are signing up in ever larger numbers, not one of the major trade publishers has signed on.
"Right now, the focus is on the university press," says Deborah Bruner, production and design manager of the Cornell University Press, in Ithaca, N.Y., and a signatory to the GPI letter. "We can mobilize the university press community. That's where I see the quickest route to action."
GPI officials say the need to move to recycled paper is urgent. U.S. book publishers use more than 40% of the world's industrial wood harvest. The pulp and paper industry is also the largest industrial water user, and third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization of industrialized countries.
A recent market analysis conducted by the GPI found switching to 30% post-consumer paper would increase costs no more than 4¢ per book. Changing to 100% recycled paper would could raise costs up to 17¢ per book.
"I've been trying to get publishers to recognize that they can have a huge impact on the recycled paper market by buying recycled," Bruner says. "The trade press is in the driver seat. If one trade house would send the [recycled] message, the mills would get in line in a minute."
Bruner says establishing a buying co-op for recycled paper would help ensure a price break and continuous supply for publishers, and economies of scale for mills.
The situation is slightly different in Canada, where the printers have been more responsive to green initiatives. Broadview Press, for example, made a commitment to print the "vast majority" of its titles on paper with significant recycled content, says Craig Lawson, corporate affairs coordinator.
"We found that 30% fiber would only add about 20 to 25¢ [Canadian] to the cost of a book, and the benefits would be worth it," he says.
Broadview has lined up five printers that can meet its recycled content requirements. "We pay our bills, so they're happy to have us as a customer," Lawson says.
– Jerry Lazar