Production and Paper Special Report: Cycling Through Your Options
Consumers have become increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the companies from whom they buy, and the direct mail delivered to their doorstep is a conspicuous reminder of paper consumption.
Fortunately, finding a suitable paper that contains post-consumer waste is possible for just about every direct mail application. However, identifying a supplier that can provide product at the desired cost and composition requires knowing where to look.
Not Your Grandfather’s Recycled Paper
“Any [direct mail] product can be made with recycled fiber” without losing quality, according to Brian Cummins, the product and value chain manager for publications at paper manufacturer Stora Enso. Cummins says that even the highest quality papers can include up to 10 percent post-consumer waste without a visible difference.
Stora Enso—which supplies paper to multichannel marketers The Swiss Colony and Harry and David for use in their marketing materials—offers supercalendered, freesheet and offset papers with a standard composition of 10 percent recycled content. Cummins says coated papers have “no problem with the printability, as the coating determines the printability.”
Depending on the requirements of the direct mail project, customers can order papers with as much as 30 percent recycled content, Cummins says. For high-quality marketing pieces, the company sells recycled paper with brightness and opacity of greater than 90 percent in cover, glossy and reply card formats.
One consideration for marketers is the possibility that small black specks can appear in de-inked papers with a concentration of recycled content greater than 10 percent.
Most coated papers are limited to 30 percent post-consumer recycled materials, according to Darby Hoover of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. Hoover, who consults with companies on how to implement recycled paper into their production processes, says companies that have not printed on recycled paper before should take a stepwise approach, starting with 10 percent post-consumer material and then moving up to 20 percent and 30 percent if the quality is acceptable. She also suggests doing trial runs before committing to an unfamiliar grade of paper.
Hoover says companies that tried recycled paper a decade ago and were not satisfied should reconsider. “Now it’s totally different; the quality is virtually identical to virgin paper,” she says.
The Cost of Being Green
The price of virgin and recycled paper fluctuates and can vary by region, so companies that comparison shop may be able to purchase 10 percent recycled paper at similar prices to virgin paper, while at other times paying a premium.
Steven Schiavone, who works in manufacturing and distribution for publisher Consumer Reports, says the company prints its magalogs—which make up the majority of the company’s 65 million annual mail pieces—on 10 percent recycled paper. He says the company routinely pays a 3 percent to 5 percent premium for recycled paper.
The cost of all paper has increased by nearly 40 percent in the past four years due to increasing demand, which limits the amount Consumer Reports can spend on recycled paper, according to Schiavone. “It’s really a balancing act, between the good you want to do [and] the cost,” he says. Companies can offset some of the extra cost of recycled materials by printing on lighter weight paper, Schiavone states.
Penny Machinski, an environmental engineer with West Linn Paper Co., says incorporating recycled paper adds “a few dollars more per hundred weight” to what the company charges. While that may not sound like much, for companies that buy tons of paper annually, it can add up quickly. Approximately 5 percent of the company’s sales include recycled content, according to Machinski.
A Sourcing Tip
Direct marketers often rely on their printers for assistance in selecting recycled papers; those looking for the widest variety of options may have to consider either working with printers that use numerous paper suppliers or researching the suppliers themselves. “The supply chain for direct marketing is more complicated since within an envelope package you may have five different suppliers [contributing components],” says Schiavone.
Marketers can identify paper companies that are likely to offer a variety of recycled papers if they look for those that operate “integrated” mills, which can process both virgin and recycled content. Stora Enso’s Cummins asserts that operating an integrated mill in Duluth, Minn., enables the company to save money in comparison to mills that have to buy recycled pulp from outside suppliers.
If direct marketers want to be considered eco-friendly, they should not only print on recycled paper, but also print only on paper acquired through sustainable practices.
“It’s not just a question of are you using 10 percent recycled material, but where does the other 90 percent (of the paper) come from,” says Schiavone.
Paper suppliers need to be asked about the chain of custody of the pulp they’re selling, adds Cummins. “Where was the tree grown, where did it go for the pulping and manufacturing process, and is it third-party certified,” are questions marketers need to ask their suppliers, he says.
Paper buyers can look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which verifies that paper was not harvested from an endangered forest and that the paper manufacturer, merchant and printer all followed FSC-approved practices.
John Gartner is a Portland, Ore.-based freelance writer and consultant.