Monday, February 1, 2010

The scourge of plastic bags - open letter to the editor of the Wentworth Courier

Every week I read your environmental /living consciously section “one degree of change” and often find much to inspire and encourage. Your recent editorial, for example, celebrated "eco-warriors who get things done". Commendable.

I was wondering if you would be willing to turn that same focus onto reviewing the environmental impact of your publication. The CAB figures for Southern Courier are approximately 50 000, and for Wentworth the same. Wherever I go in the Eastern suburbs, I see many many copies of both the Southern and Wentworth Couriers unopened on apartment letterboxes, in the entrances to businesses, at news agents. What happens to all of these unopened and unread copies???. Is not the printing and hopefully recycling of these unread, superfluous copies wasteful??. There are anything between a dozen and three dozen copies left unopened on my street most weeks – when I checked this Sunday there were 13 I could easily see, left lying untouched on apartment mailboxes. Multiply that by thousands of streets in Sydney alone and the numbers become very large indeed.

Of even more concern than the mounds of paper consumed by these magazines is the plastic packaging your publications are delivered in. Please correct me if my arithmetic is flawed or my data inaccurate, but - based on your CAB figures - each week the two above mentioned publications are distributed with 100 000 plastic sheaths. If your magazines come out 48 or so times a year that’s 4.8 million plastic sheaths a year. If you add all the Cumberland/Courier titles in NSW (approximately 24) and all the Leader titles distributed in Victoria (approximately 30) we’re probably close to 100 million bits of plastic a year. What do your readers do with this plastic? Does most of it end up in landfill or in the ocean? And what happens to it there? And what happens to all the plastic covering the unread magazines each week? Perhaps some of it contributes to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, estimated to cover an area twice the size of France, 3 million tons of plastic waste up to 10 metres deep in the area of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Or perhaps this plastic forms some of the litter that UNEP estimates kills 100 000 marine animals and a million seabirds each year.

This is where there might be some be very creative and ‘out of the box’ (or out-of-the bag ) solutions from readers. How can you distribute and place your local publications in ways that do not necessitate the plastic mountain your delivering readers to advertisers is creating?

My not-very-thoroughly-thought-through suggestions to get the ball rolling are:

a) have your distributors place the magazine in places where they are protected from rain.

b) Have only the top one, in batches of say ten, get a plastic wrapping, and it can protect those underneath it from rain....

c) Use a biodegradable plastic or degradable plastic. (Not sure what the difference is but our family drives a Honda Jazz and the Honda magazine gets delivered in a plastic wrap which is labelled “Envirocare – EPI 100% degradable wrap”) I also recently came across a company called BioPak - who offer completely biodegradable plastic packaging material.

Of course other readers may come up with common sense, environmentally friendly suggestions which you and fellow staff can push for within News Limited, and thus answer your own call for Eco-warriors who get things done.

Other posts about sustainability on this blog:

worm farms

G-d is green


chapo said...

nice entry. perhaps creating some 'no wentworth courier here thanks' stickers for household letter boxes or similar - and handing them out to locals, accompanied with your notes on the environmental impact of the publication, including data on paper, printing impacts etc. Given 85% of the material within the 'newspaper' itself is real estate related and invariably available on-line, perhaps participation in exclusion would be quite high.

. said...

Dear Chapo

Thanks for your idea - I'll hopefully raise it at the next sustainable street meeting I attend.