Zero. None. Zilch. Zip.
While the popular myth is that this industry is responsible for the neutering of forests, the reality is the Yellow Pages industry doesn’t knock down any virgin trees for its paper!!! Let me repeat that – they don’t need to cut any trees for their paper supply.
Currently, on average, most publishers are using about 40% recycled material (from the newspapers and magazines you are recycling curbside), and the other 60% comes from wood chips and waste products of the lumber industry. If you take a round tree and make square or rectangular lumber from it, you get plenty of chips and other waste. Those by-products make up the other 60% of the raw material needed. Note that these waste products created in lumber milling would normally end up in landfills. Not only that, as wood chips decompose, they emit methane, a greenhouse gas closely associated with global warming. Paper manufacturing thus puts these chips to good use. Many paper providers will also use 5% or less of recycled directories in their paper creation.
So despite what you may be reading, hearing, believing — Yellow Pages are not clogging up our landfills.
Some new research from The Nielsen Company just caught my attention — more than half of U.S. consumers would give up all forms of packaging provided for convenience purposes if it would benefit the environment.
- 58% feel that packaging designed for easy stacking/storing at home is dispensable
- 55% would give up packaging that can be used for cooking, or doubling as a re-sealable container
- 53% don’t need packaging designed for easy transport
Another interesting finding in the research was the range of attitudes toward packaging in different parts of the world. For example:
- Almost 60% of Europeans and North Americans are willing to give up packaging designed for stacking and storing at home — but only 42% of Asians would be willing to give up these types of convenience packaging
- New Zealanders are the nation most prepared to give up all packaging aspects for the sake of the environment
Specific observations from U.S. households that Yellow Page publishers need to take note of:
- Nearly 80% of consumers make a point of combining shopping trips to save gas most, if not all of the time — hello Yellow Pages. Sounds like a marketing opportunity to me
- More than half of U.S. consumers claim (I added the emphasis on “claim”) to recycle cans, bottles and/or newspapers all the time — hello Yellow Pages. Sounds like some recycling information in the front of the book is a requirement to make the print product even more valuable
- About 40% of consumers will sometimes think to look for products with less packaging — hello Yellow Pages. Sounds like an opportunity to highlight more eco-friendly businesses in both print and online products
The article covers opportunities for publishers in three areas – the functionality of the bags, the branding messages the bags can have, and the green/environmental aspects. It is that last one item that is the subject of this commentary.
We all know plastic bags in general have become a huge environmental issue. A separate website has even been set up (click here) regarding them and nearly every food store/supermarket has begun programs to either eliminate bags in favor of reusable bags, or has strongly encouraged recycling of old bags (one example).
The newest opportunity for Yellow Page publishers is to consider the use of new post-consumer recycled bags (plastics recovered from a previous use and remanufactured). “Post-consumer resin” is a term used to describe material that has been reused or recycled after it has been in the consumer’s hands. This could include plastic products such as beverage/food containers, agricultural use plastic sheeting or retail bags. The use of Post-consumer plastic content in a flexible packaging product offers several advantages:
- A portion of the raw material used to make a Polyethylene bag (starting at 30 to 50 percent) is derived from recovered plastic. The use of non-renewable natural gas and/or oil is reduced.
- Purchasing post-consumer resin helps support the entire recycling process and helps create jobs in North America. Materials must be collected, sorted and reprocessed back into usable recycled plastic resin.
- Raw materials such as plastic are diverted away from landfill locations. Valuable land is saved and energy contained within the plastic is recovered.
- Post-Consumer plastic materials can also be recycled again back into finished plastic products.
“We have a range of products which are truly greener than many of the options publishers are currently using” was what we were told by Peter Taylor at Discovery Packaging. Not only that, “we are ready to work with publishers to help them redesign their bags to reduce the amount of plastics they are using” Taylor continued.
But Discovery is not stopping there. “We introduced our first ‘green’ film as a start. By mid to late 2008 we plan to introduce a new line of sustainable bio-based films made using raw materials derived from corn, switch-grass or sugarcane. As effective film alternatives are identified and developed we plan to offer these to our customers. We look forward to working with publishers on these new eco-friendlier products”
Taylor makes several good points:
– Use post-consumer recycled materials
– Cut down on the size of the bag and/or reduce the gauge of the bag to use less plastics
– Consider switching to new “green” film
– Communicate to the users what you are doing in your publisher efforts that are eco-oriented
Publishers do have options. Discovery Packaging is certainly one of them they should consider.