Why can’t we have an environmentally sustainable magazine wrap!?

Organisations that have taken up the campaign to ban single use plastics are increasingly filling their publications with great articles on their sustainability policy, ethical travel holidays and programmes to clear the oceans of plastic waste. Great articles printed on recycled or FSC approved stock using vegetable inks all serve to promote the organisations’ sustainability ethics – but all too often ignore the fossil-based polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) wrap the magazine gets posted in or is displayed within on the newsstand.

This irony has not been missed by the team at Legacy Sport Media, who have been trying to find an economic alternative to the industry standard PE wrap used on most mailing lines. Some organisations claim their poly wrap to be ‘recyclable’ but in reality it is not accepted by most household recycling schemes and needs to be taken to a special carrier bag recycling collection point.
Recently mailing house Bakergoodchild developed a ‘100%-compostable wrap material’ made from starches derived from potato products, including waste form the food industry. They claim it contains no oil-based material, plastic or harmful toxins, making it eligible for EU certification. A well know ethical travel company has recently taken it up as well as a couple of campaigning membership associations keen to prove their Green credentials. Excited by the possibilities of this new wrap, the Legacy Team delved into the claims and process more deeply, only to find the alternative to PE & PP wrap is not only highly expensive but has several environmental pros and cons.

The latest PPA guidelines on the subject state: ‘Starch-based films are biodegradable and may also be compostable, but they are not recyclable. If starch-based films are used, these should be clearly marked as biodegradable and/or compostable as appropriate. These materials are not wanted in the recycling stream as they can have a negative impact on the recycled product. It is also very important to note that, in order to achieve the properties necessary for a selected application, many starch-based films incorporate biodegradable/compostable fossil-based petro-chemicals, often in high proportions. Whilst these non-bio-based ingredients to not affect biodegradability of the films, some of these can have a very high fossil carbon impact during production and will also release fossil carbon to the atmosphere at end-of-life. Thus, there may be a trade-off between biodegradability and carbon impact to consider. This could be particularly true of materials are home composted in poor composting conditions, which could lead to emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential. ‘*

Legacy Sport Media has been challenging paper mills and packaging producers to come up with a recyclable paper based option to meet the growing demand for a truly environmental alternative – not just a trendy green sounding solution that is potentially more harmful to the planet.

The European recycling rate for paper is over 72% with a goal of 74% by 2020, making it one of the most recycled products in the world. Maybe this is why organisations that do their environmental homework carefully are no looking for paper wrapping and smaller mailings returning to envelopes – with labeling to encourage recycling.

‘Digital is the answer’ – I hear you cry! With GDPR in place it is now all too easy to unsubscribe permanently from marketing brochures and membership managers will tell you their research proves that the association’s print magazine is often the only tangible benefit members can identify.

Let us all think more about the complete printed package and urge more paper producers to come up with a viable solution that eco-minded organisations can really shout about.

* Professional Publishers Association Magazine Plastic Wrapping Guidelines, July 2018.