Despite these forces, many printers and paper mills are undertaking eco-initiatives as they strive to “do the right thing,” respond to customer demands and public pressure, and transform landfill glut into cash and expensive carting services into real savings. Printers and papermakers are also recognizing the public relations value of bragging rights earned by official certifications covering the use of recycled materials and sustainable forest management practices.

Both advanced science and supply/demand management practices are helping companies meet their objectives. One mill is turning to university scientists for ways to help clean up process water, while many printers that collect and separate waste paper are generating higher revenue from recyclers. In Montreal, a specialist in recycled paper built a pipeline two years ago to pipe methane generated by giant landfills to power its machinery nearly nine miles away. A book manufacturer reports that a quarter of its customers now use recycled paper for all their work and nearly half use it for at least some of their titles.

Still, there's plenty of room for progress. “We're way behind Europe on the environmental, conservation and sustainability fronts,” notes one printing manager. Below is a sampling of how North American book printers and paper companies are transforming the desire to “do the right thing” into practical ways to sustain their businesses.

Late last month, the book manufacturer Courier Corp. earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certification and is also now qualified to put the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on its products and promotional materials. Rajeev Balakrishna, v-p and general counsel, says Courier's environmental efforts are part of a general policy of protecting the health and safety of employees, customers and the public. “Doing all our manufacturing in the U.S. goes a long way toward ensuring that we're socially responsible,” he notes. Overseas manufacturers, Balakrishna says, don't necessarily adhere to the same health, safety and environmental regulations as in the U.S., plus they produce a huge carbon footprint shipping their product thousands of miles.

According to Balakrishna, Courier is now measuring inputs and outputs, improving efficiencies through better technology, minimizing every possible waste stream, collecting and recycling paper and many other materials, and offering many green options to customers such as digital workflows that use less paper. “We believe that green is lean,” he continues, “so efficiencies lead to saving money, serving our clients better and improving our competitive advantage.”

Edwards Brothers employs 750 people in three plants, as well as operating several onsite and remote digital printing sites for publishers. “Recycling has long been part of our DNA,” says John J. Edwards, fourth-generation EB president. “Today we sort and collect four types of waste production paper—freesheet, coated, uncoated and groundwood—in printed and unprinted form, which means eight separate categories. But the better the segmentation, the higher the value to recyclers.” Edwards Brothers also collect office paper, ink, used printing plates, used CDs [for trace amounts of gold] and plastic bottles, which it sells to recyclers, saving the company $500 to truck a load to a landfill.

EB has been creative in finding ways to recycle waste. The paper dust EB grinds off the spine of a book to facilitate gluing is being used as animal bedding for local horse farmers. At the other end of the spectrum, EB is spending several million dollars to upgrade a printing press that wastes minimal paper when changing jobs. “Three years may be a long payback for the upgrade,” Edwards says, “but we wanted to save resources.”

Bill Upton, president of Malloy Inc., observes that as a member of the BISG team studying book climate impacts, he was surprised to learn that the main type of paper used for books—uncoated freesheet—degrades into methane in landfills at a higher rate than newsprint or coated magazine papers. This flammable gas makes up half the 3.3 tons of total greenhouse gases that a ton of uncoated freesheet releases in its cycle from tree harvest to book to landfill.

Considering this impact, Upton says, “It's crucial that our industry recycle what we don't use and avoid allowing our products to end up in landfills. Printers can recycle material scrapped during production, and publishers, distributors and retailers can recycle unsold or returned books. I'd like to see us as an industry facilitate the recycling process for consumers.”

Malloy began its own recycling efforts 15 years ago by creating easy ways for staff members to help recycle grades of material for their best use and value. Upton believes sustainable management of forests is an equally important priority. “In the U.S., we must continue regenerating more wood than we harvest,” Upton says. For its part, Malloy has earned chain-of-custody recertification for both FSC and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) products.

Malloy's standard white offset floor sheet is Glatfelter's Thor paper containing 15% PCW (postconsumer waste); it also offers off-white sheets with PCW content ranging from 30% to 100%. In all, recycled sheets represent upwards of 80% of the text stock Malloy purchases. Also, 78% of the inks Malloy uses today are made from soy or vegetable products.

Thomson-Shore Inc. discovered in 2004 that the recycled fiber content in the paper for all the books it produced that year weighed in at just 5% of the total. “That was the turning point: we became the first book manufacturer to join the Green Press Initiative and we set a goal of reaching 25% postconsumer recycled fiber within three years,” says CEO Myron Marsh. “We believe in the GPI effort and went on to sign the Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use.” Last year, using PCW, T-S exceeded the 38% level, providing publishers with papers containing 12 million pounds of postconsumer recycled fiber.

“Besides helping the environment,” says Marsh, “running recycled paper has been a big business success, enabling us to go beyond price, delivery and quality to help existing accounts and new clients like the University of California, University of North Carolina and Chelsea Green Publishing meet their commitments for responsible book production.”

Since April, Montreal-based Transcontinental Printing has offered book publishers use of a new paper made from 100% postconsumer recycled material for the same price as paper made from virgin fiber. Transcontinental used the paper—unbleached Rolland Enviro100 Book produced by Cascades Fine Papers—to produce more than 250,000 copies of the French-language edition in Canada of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The complete U.S. deluxe edition of the volume published by Scholastic also utilized the paper. Denis Beaudin, Transcontinental's strategic business development director, says the Potter book was printed at the company's eco-efficient Gagné facility, opened in 2006 in nearby Louiseville, northeast of Montreal.

Half the book customers served by the Gagné plant have already moved from regular paper to 100% PCW paper for their orders, says Beaudin. He's struck by how quickly publishers are embracing recycled paper, noting, “In a recent survey of customers, 45% say they're using eco-friendly paper for some of their titles, while 24% are using recycled for all of their titles.”

North America's largest supplier of uncoated freesheet substitutes for book papers is AbitibiBowater, a $3.9 billion company based in Montreal that operates 27 pulp and paper facilities.

“Using a no-chlorine process that yields up to 95% usable pulp from an equivalent amount of trees, we're equipped to produce nearly a million tons of substitute grades a year,” says Charlie Del Vecchio, v-p of AbiBow book sales. According to Del Vecchio, the improved efficiency rate makes substitutes that are environmentally sound, and the resulting paper grades—with similar bulk, better opacity and lower basis weight than the norm—are economically attractive to book publishers.

Since responsible papermaking starts in the forest, adds Del Vecchio, sustainable forest management is crucial. He reports that all of AbiBow's woodlands are now third-party certified to Canadian Standards Association or SFI criteria.

“Some of our biggest investments are in green energy, including cogeneration in eight of our plants,” says Del Vecchio. “The centerpiece of this effort is an $80 million power generator under construction at our plant in Ontario that's designed to generate 46 megawatts of energy solely from carbon-neutral biomass, the waste, or 'slash,' from woodcutting that long ago used to be burned in the forest.”

Cascades Fine Papers, based in Saint-Jérôme, near Montreal, has produced paper for 40 years in a process based on using recycled material, notes Normand Champagne, general sales director for Canada and security papers. “Our supply chain is vertically integrated,” says Champagne. “We collect waste paper from the 'urban' forest in recycling bins, create deinked pulp in an 11-step process without use of chlorine, and use landfill-created methane to run our papermaking machines.”

He says Cascades, which buys any virgin pulp it needs from outside suppliers, employs a process that uses 80% less water than normal papermaking.

Champagne concedes that recycled-fiber papers generally cost more because of extra expenses for collection, sorting, shipping, pulping and bleaching, even as they are better for the planet because they're diverted from landfills. Recycled papers from Cascades, which are FSC Recycled certified and available in multiple grades and finishes, contain 30% to 100% postconsumer fiber; the latter type is made entirely from waste paper and requires no new trees to be cut.

From 2006 to 2007, Champagne confirms, sales of Cascades' 100% recycled and “ancient forest friendly” paper soared 235%.

To clean up process waste water, Glatfelter Paper, in York, Pa., turned to a university, Carnegie-Mellon, in Pittsburgh, to help develop tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand (TAML) catalysts. The activators, functioning like enzymes that combat toxic compounds in humans, work with hydrogen peroxide to break down contaminants in the water.

Glatfelter has just attained FSC and SFI chain-of-custody certification, as well as the European PEFC version of certification, says Heath Frye, North American marketing manager of specialty papers. Along with developing the Thor, Conserve and Natures lines of recycled book papers, he says, the company improved its carbonless papers by replacing petroleum-based imaging capsules with soy-based NatureSolv capsules.

Frye sees a lot of fiber recycling opportunities, but notes people are slow to change. “Good, clean usable fiber is the best, but it's usually mixed with all types of papers. Usable fiber in quantity is expensive to buy.”

For Ivy Hill, a Cinram company, the quest to move from new paperboard to recycled stock for its expanding line of spoken-word audio products was initially stymied by the higher cost of the recycled grade.

“We'd moved from plastic to paperboard then to recycled material, but we faced an upcharge to customers wanting to use a more eco-friendly product,” recalls Tony Adamoli, senior v-p of sales. The solution, Adamoli explains, was to redesign a bookstyle folder to hold seven discs. With five variations—for three, four, five, six and seven CDs—Ivy can mix and match the holders to accommodate as few as three CDs and as many as 40-plus in a single box. The redesign made up for the higher cost of the recycled stock, making the more environmentally friendly disc holders cost-neutral. As part of the process, MeadWestvaco developed a paperboard grade containing 30% postconsumer content for the packaging. Among the dozen largest publishing houses, all but one now use Ivy Hill's bookstyle compact-disc holders for their book-on-CD products.

“Our process of making cloth coverings for books aligns perfectly with today's emphasis on sustainability,” says Frank Edmunds, senior v-p of sales and marketing for ICG Holliston, Church Hill, Tenn. “We start with 100% cotton, a sustainable resource, then add aqueous-based coatings and colorants, along with starches made from wheat, potatoes or corn. The result is a sustainable product that is environmentally friendly.”

Phoenix Color recently earned FSC and SFI certifications, which, says John Biancolli, purchasing v-p, “is a real investment in our environmental commitment.” Phoenix Color, which is the largest book component manufacturer in the U.S., recently produced an “all green” 32-page children's book, Once Upon a Holiday: The Moon Fell Out of the Sky, for Chronicle. The project, says John Sabella, national v-p of sales, included the case cover, jacket and text pages. Upcoming green projects include Find the Magic and The Rip Squeak and His Friends calendar for Rip Squeak Inc.

Biancolli notes that since Phoenix's headquarters houses the country's largest sheetfed printing operation under one roof, the company is also a major recycler. “Our recycling partner parks its tractor trailer at our dock for regular pickups,” says Biancolli. “But we're also tending to less visible efforts, recently changing over to green janitorial supplies because they're better for the environment and for our employees.”

Efforts by North American book manufacturers and papermakers to adopt environmentally responsible practices come at an inconvenient time. The strong Canadian dollar is causing higher prices for pulp and paper just as slumping demand prompts cuts in supply levels. Meanwhile, offshore competition is capitalizing on a weak dollar, mills are seeking virgin fiber in Latin America and Russia, and Asia continues to buy up waste paper that could be used to manufacture recycled paper for its rising needs.

Author Information
Roger Ynostroza retired in 2006 as editor of Graphic Arts Monthly, capping a 35-year career there. He is now a freelance journalist.