U.S. book industry using 24 percent recycled paper on average

Jeremy Hance
April 01, 2013

Deforested peat forest in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Deforested peat forest in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

From 2004 to 2010, book publishers increased their use of recycled fiber by nearly five times, from 5 percent to 24 percent on average, according to a new report by the Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC) and Green Press Initiative. The report, which depends on voluntary statistics from the book industry, also found that nearly all (89 percent) of book publishers have environmental policies.

"[The report] tells a story of a collaborative effort in which U.S Book Publishers, Print Suppliers, Paper Suppliers, Retailers and ENGO’s have together effected measureable, important change," Bill Rojack, who chairs the BIEC tracking committee, said in a statement. "At the same time, this report provides a framework to track progress going forward. It’s a great start and an important tool that we hope the industry will embrace going forward."

The publishing industry has been hit by scandal in recent years as activist groups such as the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace have connected some publishers to the destruction of rainforest in Indonesia. The fallout led to many top publishers in the U.S. to establish environmental and sustainability policies.

The report, dubbed Book Industry Environmental Trends, also found that book publishers are also turning more toward certification programs, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). From 2002 to 2010, paper certified by the FSC has jumped from less than 5 percent to 16 percent. However both FSC and SFI have been criticized by some environmental groups for dependence on old-growth forests as well as monoculture plantations.

But the rising use of recycled fiber has probably had the most environmental benefit: 5.25 million trees were saved and greenhouse gas emission were reduced by 1.02 million metric tons.

Another important trend was the increase in electronic books. The report found that electronic books increased from 4 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2010.

Still the report warns that its findings are limited by publisher responses. In all responses accounted for around 44 percent of the paper consumed by the book industry.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (April 01, 2013).

U.S. book industry using 24 percent recycled paper on average.