“How environmentally green is the newspaper?” was a valid question asked of me earlier this week.
Newspapers have changed over time. As an industry, we have become greener.
When I first started in the industry, newspapers relied on lead. The words were printed on lead slugs; the pictures were created in lead. Once the paper was printed, the lead was melted down and the ink and dust that had accumulated on the lead was burned away.
It was a dirty process. Lead fumes probably went up the chimney.
That all disappeared by 1970, replaced by offset printing. We turned to silver film and aluminum plates.
By the mid-1980s, with silver reaching record prices, we began selling off our film and recovering the silver from the processor. At the same time, recyclers began purchasing our aluminum plates that could be melted down and reused again.
We didn’t know a whole lot about recycling materials, but we were doing it.
We didn’t look at being green. We only knew that we were being paid for something that before was going into the landfill.
One of the first products North Americans learned they could recycle was newsprint. As a member of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association, we participated with the Waste Diversion Ontario program to recycle newspapers.
We began collecting all our waste paper inside our business, which was transported by recyclers to places that would reuse the fibre.
Today, almost every scrap of waste paper, whether from the presses, or the computer printers or photocopiers, is recycled.
Beginning in the late 1990s, we went from using 35 mm film to digital cameras. The processing of the film and the printing of pictures required a fair amount of chemicals.
That has all disappeared as digital cameras have totally replaced those old cameras.
As part of our recycling effort, we provide advertising to the province and Fort Frances to promote the recycling of plastics, paper, and metal cans.
When the price of oil skyrocketed in 1980, ink manufacturers switched from petroleum oil products to soy oil. We only use soy oil today—something that is totally renewable.
Lately, to reduce the amount of energy we use to produce the newspaper, we have been replacing all of our old cathode ray monitors with new flat screen ones.
It has dramatically reduced the amount of electricity we use and draw from the system.
I would like to say we are on our way to being a green company, though we can be better.
It would be perfect that every newspaper that we print, or flyer that we deliver, makes it way to the blue boxes to be made again into paper, paper bags, or cardboard.
We depend on our readers to do that.
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