Following research carried out at Kingston University and conversations with designers committed to specifying recycled and responsibly produced papers, it is apparent they are concerned about both an apparent lack of information about these papers and, in the case of recycled papers, a reduction in choice.
Design consultancies that are committed to Green procurement want accessible, clear and unbiased information on these and many other issues. Confusion surrounding different paper and manufacturing processes can be a significant hindrance for clients, paper buyers, designers and printers. Even the Government has made clear its intention to set a good environmental example by increasing its own use of recycled paper and has specified a minimum of 75 per cent recycled content.
Steve Brading, marketing manager for the Robert Horne Paper Company, illustrates some of the headaches. ‘[The papers we supply] contain 75 per cent de-inked post-consumer waste content. De-inked post-consumer waste means that the paper has been printed on before and has been collected through paper recycling schemes – thereby giving a closed loop in respect to re-using paper,’ he says.
However, as Brading and other paper merchants point out, there are other coated papers in the market place that have a recycled content of 75 per cent, but these can include pulp made from furniture, pallets and so on (where the forestry source is unknown), and mill broke (this is waste material from the paper-making process). As a result, it is not always possible to guarantee that it has come from recycled, or responsibly managed sources.
The environmental attributes of a paper are only part of the story. Designers are also looking for competitive cost, excellent print performance and visual or tactile qualities. Compromising on these areas only appears to be an issue with recycled paper. For virgin, responsibly produced papers, price is not an issue – but it is not so straightforward with recycled stock. Generally, uncoated paper is more expensive, but other grades are sometimes cheaper.
With coated and uncoated recycled papers there is an inevitable compromise between print performance and the level of recycled content. For example, 100 per cent recycled coated papers are available, but there are problems. As Verb Design creative director Graham Thomas explains: ‘Recycled uncoated stocks are often a yellowor grey-white. They also tend to be more porous than other stable stocks and therefore deaden print colours. I tend to seal to stop set-off, which can soften colours.’
But Flag print manager Janet Whelan is concerned with how stocks are labeled.
According to Whelan, ‘Many modern paper stocks are produced through environmentally accredited processes, but comparing standards of environmental accreditation across many paper stocks from different manufacturers can be a minefield for consultancy and client alike. Terms such as “sustainably managed” can have different levels of meaning and should not be taken at face value.’
How to buy?
The choices you make as a paper specifier affect the choices paper mills eventually make as they invest in new technology and processes. There are pulp and paper manufacturers which produce high quality paper while making the most efficient use of resources, promoting conservation and preservation of natural habitat, and minimising negative impacts on the environment and human health. Purchasing paper through a merchant with a clear environmental policy and management system will assist the process. Preferably, though, buy through one with ISO 14001 – the International Environmental Management Standard.
How does a specifier make the most environmentally sound choice?
Select from pulp and paper manufacturers who produce paper that:
• Reduces demand on forests by incorporating pulp from sustainably grown crops.
• Use manufacturing processes that continually reduce their use of energy, water and pollutants.
• Dramatically reduce waste by using materials that were formerly thrown away, such as recyclable paper and agricultural residues.
• Tell you about the paper’s recycled content. Rely on definitions, standards and labelling.
• Combine these choices with environmentally sound bleaching processes.
A key to the above is credible labelling. Without it designers don’t know whether the paper they’re buying contains, for example, post-consumer content from kerb-side or office collection programs or is simply made from paper mill scraps.
There is also a deeper argument that starts with the assertion that paper is too easy a target. We need to move to a real understanding about the total impact of design, printing and distribution and be able to evaluate it against other (apparently) low impact processes.
As Flag creative director Piers Evelegh points out, ‘A website may appear to be a low impact way to access an audience, but it needs to be balanced with an understanding of the impacts of computer use (requiring enormous energy production) and the inefficiency of the medium for certain types of communication.’
Anne Chick is a reader in sustainable design at Kingston University. For further information about the Recycling by Design Research Project log on to www.recyclingbydesign.org.uk
Green Mark campaign awareness literature and certificates
Client: London Environment Centre and Business LinkDesign: Creative Zones (Creative director: Ray Barnett, Designer: Yukiko Suzuki)
Paper for leaflet: 150gsm Revive Gloss (100 per cent recycled of which 75 per cent is post-consumer waste)
Paper for certificates: 170gsm Context Straw (100 per cent recycled – unprinted B Grade waste)
This project for the Green Mark award – a scheme that recognises the environmental improvements that a particular company makes, which ultimately saves it money, reduces risk and attracts customers – evolved from an environmentally focused client and Business Link for London’s sustainable team.
The London Environment Centre and Business Link for London chose Creative Zones partly because it fulfilled the clients’ environmental supply chain requirements.
Creative Zones managing director Bharat Lad says the project itself had to use sustainable thinking too because it was expected to. Therefore, design considerations and environmental consideration were developed in parallel.
It used waterless printing, minimum ink/colour saturation, as well as vegetable inks. Both printed items were produced without adhesives and did not require additional envelopes or labels for postage.
Lad stresses that each paper selection, colour and weights were chosen on their appropriateness for both visual and practical application such as folding. The whole supply chain from client, designer, printer and paper manufacturer employed environmental policies and procedures.
Rio Tinto Exploration Health, Safety, Environment and Communities report 2002
Client: Rio Tinto Exploration
Design: Flag (Paul Hyde-Clark)
Photography: Anthony Bannister
Worldwide, Andrew Stevens
Photography and GaleForce Australia
Printer: Pillans and Wilson
Paper: 170gsm Megamatt
Flag has been working with Rio Tinto Exploration, a global leader in finding, mining and processing mineral resources, since producing its first Health, Safety and Environment Corporate report in 2000.
The report’s typography and structure are designed to allow for the clear delineation between data, text and the underlying stories. The tables and data have a clean and clear layout to make the complex information as accessible and digestible as possible.
The use of [commissioned] photography, shot in three featured locations gave the designers at Flag the opportunity to select shots that emphasised the scale and diversity of the operations undertaken by Rio Tinto Exploration and helped provide a context. The colour palette was devised to be sympathetic to the images, and help give the report a consistent look and feel.
Making use of metallic ink (albeit in a small area) illustrates one of the dilemmas designers have with balancing meaningful, accessible and effective communication design with its environmental impacts. This ink can actually hinder the recycling process and uses additional solvents.
Flag stresses that the choice was an informed one, with the client and consultancy being able to discuss the potential impact of this and take a balanced view over whether the design element would add something to the work, and also reflect the client’s industry.