Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A catalogue of junk mail offenders named and shamed

A catalogue of junk mail offenders named and shamed
Big-name firms including Argos and Ikea among worst for wasting paper

By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor The Herald

IT'S ONE of the banes of the modern age and it's destroying the
world's forests. But now we know who the main culprits are - the big
companies most to blame for cramming our letterboxes with junk mail
have been unmasked.

Well-known catalogue retailers, supermarket chains and publishing
companies have all been labelled as woeful paper-wasters.

One of the worst offenders is the clothing company Boden, which
recently hit the headlines after the US president's wife, Michelle
Obama, was reported to have ordered one of the firm's catalogues.
Several other catalogue companies have also been named and shamed,
including Freemans, Argos and Littlewoods.

Also under fire for failing to save paper are the Swedish
home-furnishing giant Ikea; the supermarkets Morrisons, Somerfield and
Sainsbury's; Bauer, which publishes magazines including Bella, Heat
and FHM; and Future, whose titles include Total Film and T3.

Some of the companies have argued that their paper is sourced from
sustainable forests and is recyclable. But consumers have expressed
frustration at the mountains of junk mail and waste paper they create.

The average British household is bombarded by 650 items of junk mail
every year and the UK consumes four times more paper per person than
the world average. Paper production damages forests, pollutes water
and in doing so helps disrupt the climate.

A year ago the Shrink project, run by a coalition of European
environmental groups, challenged 20 of Britain's biggest paper users
to cut their consumption in half. While some, such as financial group
Standard Life, IPC Media (publisher of Pick Me Up, Marie Claire and
Nuts) and Haymarket (publisher of What Car?, FourFourTwo and
MediaWeek), have won praise for their efforts, most have attracted

Mandy Haggith, co-ordinator of the Shrink project, said: "Catalogue
retailers and supermarkets need to wake up and take action to tackle
the most pointless and unpopular forms of paper waste: packaging and
junk mail.

"Even paper made in Europe can include fibres from illegal or
destructive logging. Turning trees, the oldest-lived organisms on the
planet, into trash like excess packaging and junk mail is a flagrant
misuse of a precious resource."

The companies are named and shamed in a "scorecard" produced by
Lochinvar-based Haggith, the author of Paper Trails: From Trees To
Trash - The True Cost Of Paper, published last year by Virgin
Books/Random House.

Robert Rijkhoff of the Stop Junk Mail campaign said: "There are still
many companies out there that simply aim to post as much unsolicited
mail through our letterboxes as possible. Let's hope Shrink's findings
will encourage companies such as Boden and Freemans to clean up their

Boden insisted that it did its best to minimise harm to the
environment. As well as sourcing its paper from sustainably managed
forests and making it recyclable, the company was trying to wean its
customers off catalogues and onto the internet, a company spokeswoman

"Annoyingly, the catalogue remains an important part of getting
customers to order," she added. "Whatever the customer wants, however,
we are continually driving to reduce the amount of paper a customer

This, though, wasn't the experience of one dissatisfied Boden
customer, Louise Jamieson, a sustainability consultant from
Hertfordshire. She asked the company to stop sending her catalogues
because she always ordered online, but still gets one delivered every
two months.

The mountains of paper that end up in her recycling bin as a result
concerns her. "Are they listening?" she said. "I don't need a

The Shop Direct Group, which includes Littlewoods, said it was
reducing the number of catalogues it produced and cutting paper use in
its head office. Argos said its catalogues were "iconic" but added
that it only printed as many as were collected from its stores.

Somerfield supermarket, which was recently taken over by the Co-op,
pointed out that moves to reduce paper use had to be balanced against
the need to communicate effectively with customers.

The Future publishing group criticised the Shrink study for failing to
compare like with like.

"We work very hard to operate in way that is environmentally and
socially responsible," said the group's head of communications, Vicky
Bacon. "More than 90% of our unsold magazines are recycled and used to
produce newspapers."

Bauer Media said it would cut its paper use by 1500 tonnes this year
by reducing waste and trimming the size of magazines. Other companies
criticised did not respond to requests for comments from the Sunday