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Home > About NAA > Newspapers & Sustainability > Newspapers and the Environment: A good story to tell

Newspapers and the Environment: A good story to tell

Newspapers and the EnvironmentThe Newspaper Association of America’s members want to be good corporate citizens. With that in mind, they have changed how they do business in ways that will have long-term benefits for the environment. Members of NAA are actively establishing new business practices to reduce their products’ impact on the environment.

Sound environmental practices involve every newspaper department, from managing recovery of waste materials and using recycled newsprint to monitoring the inks and solvents from the printing process to reduce emissions. Issues affecting work force safety and well-being and company efforts to engage employees in efficiency practices remain at the top of the agenda.

This paper presents a snapshot of initiatives that reflect NAA members’ movement toward environmental sustainability, championing practices that help newspapers thrive economically while preserving and protecting the environment for future generations.

Making strides in newspaper recycling

In the past two decades, NAA’s member newspapers have voluntarily committed to using recycled-content newsprint. Consider these facts:

  • In 1989, 35 percent of all old newspapers were recycled. Today, more than 72 percent of all old newspapers in the United States are recovered and recycled.  That exemplary recovery rate dramatically helps reduce the impact on forests, dependency on imported oil and the need for more landfills.
  • The average amount of recycled-fiber content in newsprint used by U.S. newspapers has increased from 10 percent in 1989 to almost 30 percent today.
  • A typical newspaper can be recycled up to seven times. Because the de-inking process can wear out the material, there is a limit to how many times recovered fibers can be recycled.
  • Not only are old newspapers used to produce recycled newsprint, they also are recycled into other products: cellulose insulation materials, cereal boxes, egg cartons, grocery bags, pencil barrels, tissue paper and more. In many cases, manufacturing of these products is more economical and environmentally friendly than shipping old newspapers to distant mills for recycling.
  • While newspapers continue to demand recycled-content newsprint, the overall supply of newsprint has declined. Over the last decade, some recycled-content newsprint mills have closed while others have shifted from producing newsprint to producing higher grades of paper. Newsprint manufacturers also have a harder time obtaining quality recovered fiber because of increased demand for fiber from export markets.

Making a difference in newspaper production

While all newspapers must comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, newspapers represented by NAA have made substantial investments to improve operational efficiency and to reduce their impact on the environment:

  • Since the late 1980s, newspapers have been using soy-based color ink and water-based inks that emit less volatile organic compounds.  The EPA considers VOCs to be a contributor to air pollution because they lead to the formation of ozone in the atmosphere – a component of smog.
  • A number of newspapers have converted from 48-inch to 46-, 44- or 42-inch web widths to reduce the amount of newsprint consumed.
  • Newspapers are using lighter-weight newsprint, which also reduces consumption.
  • Newspapers are moving from wooden pallets to plastic, reusable skids.

Collaborating to improve sustainability

  • NAA recognizes the benefits and importance of routine energy audits, and encourages member newspapers to conduct comprehensive audits whenever possible to establish a baseline first and then to track energy-reduction programs.

Newspaper companies are incorporating green initiatives into managing their facilities, from launching employee awareness programs on recycling and conservation to incorporating efficiency practices such as natural heating and cooling in their buildings.