Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Using Recycled Paper Makes Good Economic Sense

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Using Recycled Paper Makes Good Economic Sense

Article excerpt

Magazine publishers have long been reluctant to use recycled paper because they had complaints about its dirty appearance and higher costs and because of problems on press. Now, however, it looks like recycled paper use in magazines may outstrip the use of virgin-fiber paper within the next two or three years. Why is recycled paper suddenly hot?

Magazine publishers have been attracted by significant improvements in its quality and functionality. They are lured by prices that approximate those of virgin-fiber paper, and in some cases they 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.

Will there be enough?

As significant as concerns arc 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 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," an industry newsletter that is published by Miller Freeman. "It depends on how much of current purchases are going into inventory," Galin adds.

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 I 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 the use of recovered paper in printing and writing papers will grow strongly by 30 percent, which is more than four times the pace of the underlying capacity growth of all products that are in that category.

So, while overall capacity for coated groundwood 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 it should lead to an increase in the total volume of recycled paper produced over the next three years.

New deinking mils

In addition, an Environmental Defense Fund report says that since 1988, nine new deinking pulp mills designed to produce high-quality 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. If all the facilities are in operation by 1997, about 2.3 million tons of deinked pulp will be on the market, an increase of 780 percent from 1988.

Although buyers still pay a premium for recycled paper, the price disparity is narrowing. And George Pappas, a manager at Lyons Falls, New York-based Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper and an advocate for recycled paper use, predicts that over the next few years, paper manufacturers' increased output of recycled paper will drive prices down further - to the same level as virgin-fiber papers.

Quality concerns

Even if recycled paper prices do fall to those of virgin-fiber papers and availability continues to rise, one major issue remains in many publishers minds: quality.

Many art directors and production directors cry "Foul!" when confronted with a mandate to use recycled paper. They complain about runnability and show-through; they say recycled paper is dirty and that quality will suffer - which will, in turn, upset the magazine's advertisers.

Not so. …

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