Published Thursday 9th May 2019

Few markets have been under as much pressure as the print industry over the last decade. The growth of digital media, in particular, has seen many businesses turn from paper to online. Whilst there are many areas, particularly in advertising, where print media is still in demand, the competition from other mediums continues to increase.

Now, print is at the centre of another of society’s major talking points: the environment. Concerns about pollution, waste and the future of our planet are infiltrating all areas of business, as featured in our recent blog on eco-consumers and the distribution sector. Print is also coming under fire and, with the continued growth of digital, the industry faces many questions as it heads into a potentially turbulent future.

Eco Misassumptions Regarding Print Media

Environmental concerns have been part of the national conversation for many years, but the degree of focus has increased noticeably over the last few months. Scientific reports by major global institutions, followed by widely reported protests in multiple countries, have led to increased public demand for noticeable changes. This public response can lead to knee-jerk reactions, something which the print industry has suffered from in recent times.

Two Sides, a print industry advocacy group, have been writing to the UK Government about cases of misinformation in council messages regarding the sustainability of print. According to their study, in a random sample of 100 UK local councils, 42% were using messaging claiming that print and paper were harmful to forests. There is a rapidly growing view, particularly amongst businesses, that print is an unsustainable practice. This belief is something that Two Sides want to challenge.

It is arguable that electronic media creates less waste than using print for communications. However, people and businesses often forget that paper is wholly recyclable and renewable, and even concerns about ink are often misinformed. According to UK Government figures, in 2017 79% of paper and cardboard waste was recycled. Meanwhile, in 2016, the recycling rate of paper in the EU was 72.5%, the highest figure in the world.

The Wider Recycling Debate

Those recycling figures should work to promote print as an eco-friendly product. With positive facts concerning reusability, the environmental impact of the practice should be minimal, even when compared to digital. However, the recent spike in demand from the public for environmental practices means that everybody must do more, regardless of past performance.

Two Sides note that there is about 6% more paper in the EU that could be recycled. However, there are broader concerns about the UK’s ability to recycle more with the current infrastructure in place.

Pro Carton, the association of carton manufacturers in Europe, notes that much of the UK’s current recycling infrastructure is outdated, particularly regarding e-commerce. The growth of online shopping has put more paper into the system, but local authorities do not have the structures, procedures or budgets to maximise the recycling potential. The print industry will hugely benefit from increased recycling opportunities, allowing their message of sustainability to carry further into the public discussion.

Changes in the UK Print Industry

The print industry demands that the government support their recycling efforts through more factual messaging. However, for print media to thrive, it still has to further its own production sustainability. Much of this development will likely take the form of efficiency, as print businesses in an increasingly competitive landscape look to improve their price competitiveness. Combining positive messaging with improvements in productivity, reducing waste for the environment and costs for clients, will see the print sector thrive long into the future.

Developments in the sector will hopefully see average print costs for businesses reduce over the long term. However, proactive companies can begin making savings right now with the help of Expense Reduction Analysts. Here at ERA, we are experts at helping major UK businesses create corporate cost savings in a range of areas, from print to office supplies, mail management and much more. We have worked with businesses in a variety of industries, helping them to create a culture of cost saving that releases long-term capital. If you are interested in evaluating your print supply chains and preparing them for the future, why not get in contact with our team today?