Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Recycled Paper Blasts Off

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Recycled Paper Blasts Off

Article excerpt

A short two years ago, recycled paper was an option considered seriously only by highly committed eco-pioneers. For the rest of the magazine industry, its use was out of the question because of inconsistent quality, higher price and erratic availability. Now, however, it looks like recycled paper use in magazines may outstrip virgin-fiber paper within the next two or three years.

Why is recycled paper suddenly hot? Magazine publishers are attracted by significant improvements in its quality and functionality; are lured by prices that approximate those of virgin-fiber paper; and, in some cases, are spurred by reader demand. Magazine-industry executives are discovering that recycled paper makes public-relations and environmental sense, and--even more important--economic sense.

Enough to meet demand?

Publishers have long been reluctant to use recycled because of complaints about its dirty appearance and higher costs, and because of problems on press. But if the results of the 1994 Magazine Publishers of America paper survey are any indication, that's changing fast.

The 57 companies participating in the MPA survey predicted that in 1995, they would increase their use of recycled coated groundwood by 89 percent, and recycled coated freesheet by 120 percent--they'll consume more than 265,000 tons and 33,000 tons, respectively. That means that in 1995, 26 percent of the total coated groundwood paper used will be recycled, and that recycled coated freesheet will account for 16 percent of the total used. Of all paper expected to be used by consumer magazines this year, 24 percent of the approximately 1.5 million tons will be printed on recycled paper.

As significant as concerns are about the cost and quality of recycled paper, the most pressing issue right now is availability--thanks to the rapid shift in the overall paper market. The problem, to which anyone who has tried to buy paper in the last four months can attest, is whether there will be enough recycled paper, or any kind of paper, to go around. The answer? Probably. "Recycled paper will be as available as other kinds of paper," predicts Rob Galin, executive editor of "Pulp & Paper Week," a San Francisco-based industry newsletter published by Miller Freeman. "It depends on how much of current purchases are going into inventory."

According to the 1994 capacity and fiber consumption survey of the American Forest & Paper Association, which forecasts the industry's capacity to make paper through 1997, coated groundwood capacity will increase by less than 1 percent annually through 1997. This means little relief in the current paper market in either the price or availability of most coated papers unless demand eases. However, the AF&PA predicts that use of recovered paper in printing and writing papers will grow strongly by 30 percent, more than four times the pace of underlying capacity growth of all products in that category.

So, while overall capacity for coated paper will barely increase, the amount of recycled coated paper as a percentage of the whole should increase significantly. A spokesman for the AF&PA says the rapid growth in recovered paper consumption should result in an increase in the number of grades and types of recycled printing papers available, and should lead to an increase in the total volume of recycled paper produced over the next three years.

In addition, an Environmental Defense Fund report says that since 1988, nine new deinking pulp mills designed to produce highquality pulp for printing and writing papers began operations in the United States, which increased U.S. capacity by 256 percent. According to the report, another three deinking facilities are under construction, four more are in the final stages of financing, and nine additional mills are in the early stages of development. Should all the facilities be in operation by 1997, about 2.3 million tons of deinked pulp will be on the market, an increase of 780 percent from 1988. …

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