Saturday, 6 June 2009

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

Personal note: Replies from two of the UK's largest printer/publishers, Integrity and Future Publishing, have shown them to be using only environmentally friendly sources for their raw material.


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 andNuts) and Haymarket (publisher of What Car?,

FourFourTwo and MediaWeek), have won praise for their efforts, most have attracted criticism.

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 act."

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 said.

"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 receives."

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 catalogue!"

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 Herald.