Beyond the Recycling Bin
When it comes to the environmental footprint you leave behind in your catalog and direct mail operations, no doubt you want to do the right thing. But understanding the terms of the debate takes a bit of self-education.
“The challenge is moving away from the arena in which we talk only about paper made of post-consumer-waste (PCW) recycled content, to a forum that’s focused on the new idea of the entire lifecycle of paper — from the time the tree is cut to the back door of the printing company,” says Scott Bond, senior vice president for Bulkley Dunton, a New York City-based division of paper distributor xpedx.
To fairly determine the environmental impact of the paper chosen for your catalog, there seemingly are an infinite number of considerations — the amount of recycled content is but one.
Phillipe Riebel, environmental director, North America, UPM-Kymmene, a New Brunswick, Canada-based paper manufacturer, says, “When you buy a ton of paper, you need to know what the environmental load is. What’s the impact on the forest? [What’s the impact] when transporting raw materials to the mill? What about the mill’s performance when it comes to such factors as air emissions? How much [carbon dioxide] is emitted per year? How much water is used to make that ton of paper, and what is the quality of the wastewater?
“After that ton of paper has been made,” Riebel continues, “what’s the environmental impact caused by the printing process and distribution of the catalog you’ve created? Unless you look at the whole lifecycle of the paper, you’re missing out on some very key environmental information,” he notes.
Riebel suggests that, too often, catalogers and other print buyers concentrate exclusively on the amount of recycled fiber used in their papers. But you can purchase paper that doesn’t use any recycled fiber and still has a lower environmental load than a paper made with recycled fiber from a mill that has, for example, obsolete technology, and therefore pollutes the environment more, he notes. “When you use recovered papers, you have to de-ink it, and that produces a lot of sludge. Some mills still [send to] landfills that material. Some modern mills will use it as fuel; they’ll dry and burn it, which is more environmentally sound. This is important to know and only one of the many questions catalogers need to ask.”