Zaroff says the publicity from a pronounced shift to using recycled paper would benefit the catalog industry as a whole: "I think consumers are really turned off by the amount of catalogs they get and how much paper that's wasting. From a marketing standpoint, [using recycled paper is] good for everybody."
Myths and Realities
Some of the common arguments against using recycled paper (e.g., extra cost, less availability) may not necessarily be accurate.
Myth: Recycled paper is more expensive than virgin.
Reality: A study of paper vendors done by the Alliance in 2001 found that 16 North American paper suppliers offered recycled-content coated Web paper (in grades one through five) either at price parity with virgin or at a premium subject to negotiation.
Some catalogers and vendors acknowledge there's a slight difference between prices of virgin and recycled paper. But they say catalogers may be able to negotiate the price of recycled paper down to the same level as virgin paper. Mills says the negotiations may depend on a paper vendor's current supply of recycled stock.
Myth: Not enough paper vendors offer recycled paper.
Reality: According to the Alliance, 17 of North America's top 20 paper suppliers offer options containing at least 10-percent postconsumer recycled content. And the organization's Recycled Paper Capacity Study, released in October 2001, found most mills providing deinked pulp (the component that gives paper its "postconsumer" title) are operating at less-than-full capacity. On average, a deinking mill operates at 73-percent capacity.
Anecdotally, representatives from three catalog companies using recycled paper—Gaiam, Norm Thompson and Under The Canopy—said they found more than enough vendor options from which to choose.
Myth: Deinking causes its own pollution problems.
Reality: The process of deinking repulps (which turns paper from sheets into its original components of water and cellulose fibers), separates and removes ink and other contaminants from paper recovered through community recycling programs. A common argument claims that deinking yields toxic sludge that must be disposed of at hazardous waste sites.