Protecting our planet for future generations is a team effort and it’s terrific to see more organisations championing sustainability. One industry that has done this effortlessly for decades is the paper industry. To state the obvious, paper comes from trees, which are the ultimate renewable source. Trees can be grown and replanted responsibly, and paper can be manufactured sustainably and recycled using low energy methods. All of this makes paper one of the few industries where a fully circular economy is achievable.

To fight climate change and reduce carbon footprints, every industry is scrutinising its processes – and paper is no different. We’ve been asking ourselves some key questions:

  • Is the use of trees in production sustainable for the planet?
  • Could newspapers be harming the environment or are they a force for good?
  • How can we ensure that we give back more than we remove?

Let’s take a closer look at the sustainability story of newspapers to find out more.

How Sustainable Are Newspapers?

The first myth to bust is a big one – many people think that paper production is depleting forests. In fact, the softwood coniferous trees used to make newspapers come from sustainably managed forests where more trees are immediately planted when some are cut down. These forests filter out a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere giving us more oxygen.

Furthermore, newsprint —which is the paper used to print— is mechanically made from wood pulp, and no chemical is used to bleach it. Because of this, it is produced with less pollution and cost than sparkling white papers. It can also be made from 100% recycled paper fibre or a mixture of fresh wood pulp and recycled paper. Newspapers are as sustainable as it gets.

In the UK, paper is one of the most recycled materials with around 80% making it to recycling centres. Papers can be recycled up to 5 times and most paper industries take full advantage of this. There’s a good chance that some of the paper you put in your recycling bin returns to you in the form of your favourite newspaper.

The Environmental Story of Newspapers

Past predictions pointed toward a totally paperless world, but in 2022 we’re still a long way off. 

In the general life cycle of Newspapers, there is little waste:

  • After newsprint is made sustainably, soy-based or water-based ink is used to print. These eco-friendly inks have been used for printing since the late 1990s and do not release harmful compounds to the environment
  • Next, newspapers are collected in bulk and distributed to the users’ doorstep by courier services.We take account of environmental standards when awarding contracts for the printing of magazine supplements and the road distribution of printed products. Key contractors measure and report the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with the work they undertake on our behalf.
  • After the newspaper is read, it can then be submitted for recycling, this way it joins the manufacturing process again. They may not always end up as newspapers, but they may become paper bags, cereal boxes or even egg cartons.

Research carried out by Twosides confirmed that while 64% of paper users in the UK believe that forests in Europe are shrinking due to paper production, they are actually growing by over 10 Million square metres every day.

While many man-made products contribute to pollution, it can be concluded that newspapers are sustainable with a low carbon footprint.

As a media organisation, we have the opportunity to influence public opinion and seek to encourage positive action through our campaigns. Through both our national and regional titles, we regularly campaign for change, draw attention to climate issues, and help to make the climate crisis part of the mainstream national conversation.

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