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17 October 2019

NMA: Improving the Environmental Impact of Newspapers is a Priority

Responding to a joint call for evidence on the standards for biodegradable, compostable and bio-based plastics from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the NMA said that publishers were looking at how best to reduce the industry’s reliance on plastic wrapping.

In its response the NMA said: “Improving the environmental impact of newspapers is a priority for our members, but cost is inevitably a major consideration for publishers. At present compostable film appears to be the only realistic alternative to plastics, but our members are actively looking at other options. They would welcome clear guidance as to what is the most cost-effective and efficacious material (from a recycling point of view) to use for wrapping.”

It continued: “The Guardian was the first newspaper to switch to biodegradable wrapping. In January 2019 they adopted a compostable wrap called Bioplast 300 (made by Alfaplas) for their weekend supplements in London, and this was rolled out nationally in April. In June 2019 The Times and The Sunday Times also started using compostable film. The News UK titles have now removed all outer polybagging in supermarkets, independent retailers and through home news delivery. The company has pledged to remove all single-use plastic on its titles and inner magazines by next year.

“The material used is made from waste potatoes left out of the food chain in eastern and northern Europe, so their manufacture does not divert food resources. Currently only 0.02% of European agricultural land is used for all crops grown for bioplastics. The potato starch is compounded with biodegradable polyesters and additives. It does not contain volatile or GM ingredients and it is 100% biodegradable.“

The NMA noted that publishers had to balance commercial imperatives against calls from readers to reduce plastic waste. “The expense of compostable materials is a barrier to their wide adoption, which reduces the likelihood of local authorities being able to justify the cost of a separate collection system.” 

The response concluded: “Another initiative that would be welcomed is a Government-led education campaign to educate consumers about recycling.”

This follow’s recent newspaper publisher’s environmental drives including the Guardian’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2030, The Times’ Clean Air For All Campaign and the Daily Mail’s fight against plastic waste

The news media industry has long been committed to recycling and sustainable practices. In April 2000 newspaper publishers reached a voluntary agreement with the UK government on targets for the recycled content of newspapers. An independent audit is undertaken every six months, and publishers carry the recycling logo and content percentage figure in a prominent position in their newspapers.  In 2018 the recycled paper content of UK newspapers was 69.2 per cent.