Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Don't let your free daily become litter

Free daily newspapers in London are under attack by environmentalists who see too many of the papers being thrown in the trash — unread. On June 13, an environmental group called Project Freesheet will have volunteers looking around London for discarded papers that will be collected for a photo at the end of the day.

Project Freesheet has received an incredible boost from Rupert Murdoch and Viscount Rothermere, who each own free dailies in London and who have circulated videos accusing the other one of intentionally dumping papers as part of a plan to inflate circulation numbers. The videos made by private detectives for the papers are on Youtube (and we've posted a couple of screen shots from an Associated Newspapers' video that purports to show copies Murdoch's "thelondonpaper" tossed in the trash.) asked the organizer of Project Freesheet, Justin Canning, the following questions:

Q: What prompted the creation of Project Freesheet?

Project Freesheet was started after reading an article in The Ecologist magazine which pointed out the environmental impact of the current freesheet phenomenon which was going unnoticed

Q: What is the objective of Project Freesheet?

PF is aiming to highlight the issues raised and encourage more debate on these issues whilst exploring new ways of producing newspaper in the 21st century.

Q: Who are the leaders of Project Freesheet? Does it have a board of directors and/or executive director?

PF was started and created by Justin Canning. It is a Not-For-Profit organisation

Q: Is there a place online where one can get more information about it?

The Web site provides most of our info. On there you can find a link to my blog which will give you a bit more background info on where i'm coming from

Q: Is Project Freesheet affiliated with or funded by any other organization?

At present PF is funded by Justin Canning. I am hoping that the website traffic will create some income for us through partnerships and banner ads

Q: Why the emphasis on free newspapers when they only represent 15% of the total circuilation of daily newspapers in Europe?

Freesheets are the focus of the campaign because they are free. People are given them whilst on their way to/from work. They are not purchasing them, so there is no process of ownership (which is another reason why they are not being recycled). The people that produce them market their product in a very aggressive manner by flooding the streets with hundreds of distributors who are given more papers than they can distribute (see web site under news section). And because of the low quality of the product it would not be purchased anyway

Q: Is your organization also targetting other users of paper, such as grocery stores (for bags), restaurants (bags, wrappers), book publishers, schools and government agencies?

I will be looking at campaigns like nappies, plastic bags, food packaging (anything to do with colossal waste that impacts on the environment) in the future

Q: Does it make matters better or worse that publishers use recycled newsprint? (I ask because, as you know, chlorine is used to bleach recycled paper pulp, and that chemical has been indiscriminately dumped in streams in Canada, killing fish and other living creatures. Some have concluded that this environmental tragedy is due to the demand by governments that newspapers use recycled paper.)

Indeed that is why we are encouraging the use of alternative polymer materials. Recycled paper is not the solution to the newspaper industry or the publishing industry in general. It is an improvement on over-use of virgin source material, but the solution lies in the use of materials that do not impact on the environment.

Q: Any suggestions on how free daily publishers could operate in a way that would satisfy your project?

The free daily producers have a responsibility to the product that they produce and the manner by which it is consumed and disposed of. If the product was made of organic polymers (that are already available) they would be able to:
    A) Recycle their product infinitely (presently paper recycling is limited to 4/5 cycles)
    B) Dramatically reduce their raw material costs by more effective recycling practices
    B) Allow the product to go to landfill in the knowledge that it is providing positive nutrients for the environment