brittadotcom (brittadotcom) wrote,

Harry Potter and the Recycled Paper Issue

Big news from Scholastic today:

Scholastic Makes Largest Ever Commitment to Forest Stewardship Council Certified Paper in a Single Book for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Why not 100% post-consumer recycled paper? There isn't enough recycled paper supply for a 12-million copy print run. Remember this 12-million copies is a new record for a first-printing run, and the 10.8 million for HP#6 was record-setting too.

As soon as the July 21st date was announced, I remembered the boycott of the Scholastic HP#6 in favor of the 100% recycled print run by Raincoast in Canada. I figured there would be new developments in the past two years, but I started researching in early February to see what I could find out to find all the facts, not just one version that might very well be skewed. I found a press release that Scholastic Joins with Rainforest Alliance that beat the HP#7 date announcement by only a couple days, so I was sure there would eventually be bigger news from Scholastic...and here it is today. :)

In the interests of keeping everyone as informed as possible, here are some things I found interesting about this whole situation:

Scholastic's 'closed loop' recycling program

From the Rainforest Alliance press release from Scholastic:

Ford said that Scholastic is taking additional steps to increase the use of recycled content, “We have a ‘closed loop’ recycling program whereby one of our mill takes excess Scholastic inventory and recycles the books, combining the fiber with post-consumer waste to make paper for other Scholastic products. Although recovered fiber from excess inventory is not considered PCW because the books never passed through the consumer, the program still reduces the amount of virgin fiber needed.”

In addition to the recycled content in its publications, Scholastic also uses paper containing 30% PCW fiber for shipping cartons and for general office purposes, paper with a minimum of 50% PCW fiber for product displays, and FSC-certified paper for select reference and promotional products. Over the last 20 years, the company’s criteria for selecting suppliers has included evaluating their sustainable forestry practices, clean manufacturing practices, credible reporting and verification, and economic viability...

We need more consumers to recycle!

As for the boycott last time around, I'm all for pressure on irresponsible companies and creating demand for recycled goods, but there is a balance, plus enough individuals also must be committed enough to recycling that they provide enough post-consumer supply for the demands they're imposing from such a boycott! These companies are in business to make money after all, and they have owners and stockholders they are beholden to. Also remember that before they lucked out getting Harry Potter, Scholastic was a pretty small publishing company compared to Random House and others. I'm sure as a company they've been learning while growing so exponentially. Sudden growth is often very hard on a company, and I know from personal experience at fast-growing companies that often you just cannot report on certain statistics until you have a reason and develop a way to start collecting them. I think since no one had asked them to report specifics before, Scholastic was completely unprepared to report on any of their recycling statistics when Greenpeace all of a sudden proclaimed a boycott after all Scholastic's contracts were already in place for their 10.8-million-copy print run last time around. All the quotes from Scholastic in the articles I found about Half-Blood Prince were vague like, "Scholastic says it does use some recycled paper for its books, including the Potter series, but it would not divulge the amount." Honestly the most balanced article I found from two years ago was not surprisingly from the New York Times:

A Bid for Harry Potter's Green Fans

...Environmentalists say that forest-friendly paper, while the actual definition is being debated within the publishing industry, means that the books are printed with the maximum amount of recycled paper and that the pulp is not culled from the biologically diverse forests of the Southeastern United States or the old-growth Northern boreal forests of Canada, delicate woodlands that supply much of the paper to North American book publishers.
But some larger publishers in the United States say they are concerned about a lack of supply of the forest-friendly paper, lower quality and higher costs of the paper, which conservation groups and publishers estimated at roughly 5 percent more than conventional paper, although its price has fallen in the last few years and the paper quality has improved, as more mills and printers have moved toward manufacturing and printing it, experts say.
Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House Inc. in the United States, the biggest trade book publisher in the world, producing more than 3,000 new titles a year, said "quite a few" of its books were printed without using wood from ancient forests, but he could not say how many were printed on recycled paper.

"We're concerned about forest protection and we have no interest in contributing to the destruction of any endangered forest," Mr. Applebaum said. "The selection of the proper paper for us is a matter of availability as much as it is responsibility. There is not as a great a supply at a reasonable price to accommodate every book we publishers do. That's a real issue." ...

Nope, still not enough people recycling yet!

Granted that New York Times article was two years ago, but the challenges still hold that there is not enough post-consumer waste paper getting back into the supply chain to meet the consumer demand for paper books. See this recent article about one of the companies contracted to provide the covers for Deathly Hallows:

Haverhill area recycling helps Harry Potter

Where paper pulp comes from

Another fact to consider is that responsible paper companies make "non-recycled" paper pulp from the unusable scraps from processing other forestry products (the lumber for the studs inside your home's walls, wood siding, your deck, your kitchen cabinets, etc), and they grow fields of cottonwood trees or similar which mature in 5-6 years specifically for paper pulp, since paper doesn't need the quality of wood that lumber needs. These cottonwood tree fields are managed just as other crops, Christmas tree farms, edible produce like wheat, rice, vegetables, etc. I've seen cottonwood fields along the Columbia River, but I only knew what they were vs. just random fields of trees because my dad would point them out as headed for the Longview Weyerhaeuser mill down the river. I know the inside scoop from Weyerhaeuser and Willamette (now acquired by Weyerhaeuser) because my dad has worked for them for so many years. Scholastic still hasn't said if they use Weyerhaeuser paper specifically, but I also know from family friends in the business that Georgia-Pacific is also harvesting responsibly. The big lumber companies figured out the hard way by the 1940s or so that clear-cutting couldn't last, so they had to create their own reforesting plans and time the harvest cycles for all the kinds of lumber they use, hardwood, pulp, and otherwise. Yes it sucks that they learned the hard way, but at least they wised up, are doing better already, and are committed to the future. I'm sure other still-developing countries are just now learning those lessons, but I seriously doubt Scholastic is buying paper from non-North American sources.

So, after reading all that, make your own decision, but make it with all the facts in hand, not just being fed one side of the story from someone. Factor this in with the rest of your personal impact on the environment. had interesting comments to this issue back in 2005 that the jet fuel from the Canadian shipping of the 100% post-consumer recycled edition might be more harmful to the environment overall than riding your bike or walking to your local bookshop to buy the Scholastic edition where the recycled content was something but just unknown. For me personally, add the home solar system I'm planning on investing a very large chunk of my hard-earned savings to *generate* green energy that will last long after I no longer live in that house, then hopefully it'll offset the environmental impact of my horribly long commute to work each day, let alone the purchase of one book. It sounds like the largest hurdle is that more homes need to recycle their own waste paper to get it into the processors' hands to be more recycled supply for all the books we all want to read!

For me, I'm going to get my own Scholastic copy so I can read it as soon as people leave my house for my big bash for Year 7 at Hogwarts. :) Both previous book release parties I have allowed my guests to pre-order the book through me for pickup at the party, which means even less shipping & driving impact since we get about 25 books in one car trip to the I get to keep the cool "do not open until" shipping boxes for party storage - even more recycling! :)
Tags: harry potter, recycling, scholastic

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