Tag Archives: book industry

BIC Breakfast: Towards a Greener Book Industry

In the UK we are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and more and more of us are thinking about how we might take some responsibility for making our world greener. I attended the BIC (Book Industry Communication) Breakfast to hear about what’s happening in the publishing industry.

Carnstone’s Book Chain Project speakers outlined how they’ve been working with 28 publishers to review issues in the supply chain. There are 3 main areas they’ve looked at:

Labour & Environment

Labour standards and work conditions at printers need to be regularly assessed. There is the issue of modern slavery particularly in the Far East and the onus is on publishers to monitor this.

Chemical Safety & Materials

There’s a lot that publishers can do to in terms of materials choices. However, it’s not as simple as stopping using glitter as children’s publishers need to supply the demands of the market (and it turns out biodegradable glitter really isn’t?!)

Forest Sourcing

Publishers can look at using sustainable wood for pulp eg buy from mills that source wood from plantations in place of supporting deforestation.

Neil Springall, Head of Operaions, Penguin Random House Distribution clearly feels we all have a moral duty to start making changes and drove a plan to focus on a reduction of plastic use at PRH. He had some great quotes including: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Robert Swan

Incredibly over 40% of all global plastic usage is in packaging. Publishers mainly use plastic for shrink wrapping and carton filling to protect books.

After only a few months, PRH have already achieved a 47% reduction and are aiming for 75% soon.

One major change has been a move to ‘multi use pallet lids’ – these are an expensive product but save both on huge amounts of shrink wrap and labour time. They now employ 4 people full-time to shred all their cardboard which is then used as packaging material in place of plastic. Brilliant!


Another issue is reducing mileage for transporting books between printers, distribution centres and bookshops. This lead nicely onto the final speaker…

Dave Thompson of Publiship gave a round-up of shipping and gave some fascinating facts – did you know that:

  • 90% of world trade is moved by sea
  • Shipping containers were only introduced in the 1950s and widespread adoption from the ‘60s is the largest contributor to globalisation (and not the net!)

There have been improvements in engineering over recent years helping reduce emissions but container ships still emit enormous levels of Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide (international shipping accounts for 2.1% of all CO2 emissions). Publishers need to get books from their printers to countries around the world and there are other options:

Clearly, shipping is the best option and ‘slow steaming’ (takes c. 1 week longer) saves huge amounts of fuel and emissions.

I also learnt about Ballast – ships take on huge amounts of water to stabilise as they use up fuel / when empty of their cargo. They load the ballast water in the source port then discharge at the destination port with issues that they’re potentially discharging polluted water and predatory sea creatures. Fortunately there are laws in place to help avoid this now. Thanks to Alaina-Marie Bassett of BIC for organizing such an interesting event. If you’d like to learn more about BIC see @BIC1UK and www.bic.org.uk



Leave a Comment

Filed under Industry News & Events, Industry Spotlight, Industry Voices