Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s been drilled into my head for as long as I can remember. Now the subject of how we dispose of waste is more in the public consciousness than ever thanks to projects such as "Blue Planet II" highlighting the damage that landfill can do to the environment. Publishers are already starting to address this in terms of their publishing, but what about their working practices? As paper is a huge part of book production, publishers have a duty to take charge of disposing of their waste responsibly. How can they do this?
Here are some ideas:
- Try to send zero waste to landfill from offices. Using emails hasn’t necessarily reduced the amount of paper used in offices because a lot of the time they are printed off! Therefore, publishers should encourage less paper use, but when it is used, separate it from general waste. Food can be disposed of using food wastage schemes, or alternatively, the company could start a compost bin. It’s also important to think about the disposal of electrical equipment such as unwanted IT equipment, telephones, batteries, lightbulbs and paint containers which are classed as harmful waste and need to be disposed of separately.
- Educate! A big part of the problem surrounding recycling is that people are not constantly reminded of the negative impacts of simply sending all waste to landfill. If employees are educated about how they can help the environment, they can make conscious individual decisions to reduce their impacts. For example, instead of buying coffee in a paper cup on the way into work, encourage staff to take a reusable cup.
- Check that suppliers have recycling policies in place. Raw material sourcing, printing, packaging and distribution all produce waste materials that must be disposed of in an ethical way. Publishers must influence their suppliers’ environmental behaviour and should regard environmental criteria as central to their selection of suppliers. A green supply chain is a good supply chain.
- Source paper sustainably and make sure it’s FSC or PEFC certified, or alternatively follow publishing guidelines such as PREPS. Recycled fibres are also efficient in keeping the life cycle of materials going, whilst decreasing emissions in other areas of the supply chain.
- Tell everyone! Publishers should be transparent about how much they are recycling and what they are doing with their waste – as we know, society is becoming increasingly conscious about the environment and there is more emphasis on the corporate social responsibilities of businesses. Making these changes more public will make consumers happy and will motivate competitors to recycle too!
If publishers aren’t motivated by knowing that they are helping to save the planet by reducing the harmful impacts of their organisation, there are other ways they can benefit from these changes. Publishing is a business and costs will always be an influence; decreasing the amount of waste that goes straight to landfill can result in landfill tax savings.
The publishing industry is constantly evolving, with new digital technologies being created and provoking discussion around the uncertainty of the future of printed books. However, while print books are still being produced and offices are still used as premises for business, publishers must face up to their responsibilities and take control.
They must use their platform to educate employees and remind consumers about the importance and benefits of recycling. Though these changes may seem small and aren’t the only solution to helping the environment, they are a necessary start. We are all on this planet and need to recycle as much as possible to help make it a cleaner, greener place.
Danielle Walsh is a Publishing Media student at Oxford Brookes University.