Are free newspapers costing the earth?

October 5, 2007 at 4:02 am

The hugely successful free newspaper Metro has announced this month that it will be distributing a further 250,000 copies of its paper each day. The paper already circulates at a figure around 1.3 million, which puts it as the fourth largest daily newspaper in the UK, larger than the Daily Telegraph.

Metro, which is part of the same media group as the Daily Mail, was launched in 1999 in London but has since spread its distribution to many other UK cities and, more recently, to Dublin. Having proven a huge success, being read by thousands of commuters every day and earning millions of pounds in advertising, a war broke out in August 2006 between two new free newspapers who wanted to dominate the evening commute slot in the same way.

London Lite newspaper is one of these two and was originally a free spin-off of The Evening Standard, but in August 2006, to counter News International’s thelondonpaper, it was given its own mantle and run alongside the Standard. thelondonpaper is part of the same company as The Sun and The Times, and has the infamous Rupert Murdoch at its helm.

The big question though is for all the millions of sheets of newspaper being produced for this new-found readership, how much is being recycled?

In August 2007, the two corporations agreed with Westminster Council’s requests to fund a further 64 recycling bins around central London or face a ban on selling their papers. However, in one year, the new papers have provided the council with an extra 1000 tonnes of waste.

The two corporations will also be responsible for the recycling of the new bins’ contents, as well as providing their own litter picking services on the streets and around the transport networks. Councillor Alan Brady said: “This has been a complex matter, and there are some details we need to finalise, but I look forward to all parties working together to ensure Westminster’s streets are kept clean and that as much waste newspaper as possible is recycled.”
Over £111,000 was added to the Westminster tax-payer last year to help cope with the vast increase of litter from newspapers.

The Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act was brought in when discussing the issue, but it isn’t a law imposing act so Metro and The Evening Standard decided not to sign up to the agreement. However, this month, Metro have teamed up with WRAP to offer businesses in central London free recycling bins and information packs for their offices.

Nevertheless, such measures are not enough in themselves. A government funded organisation called Newsprint and Newspaper Industry Environmental Action Group (NNIEAG) was launched in 2006 with the objective of “providing advice on how to improve recycling rates and in particular, from a practical point of view, how to recycle newspapers.” With this in mind, here are a few tips for reusing your newspapers at home:

  • Scrunch them up and use in the compost bin to soak up liquid
  • Compress into logs for burning.
  • Line trenches when growing runner beans
  • Use newspaper to clean windows and stainless steel sinks
  • Use as additional insulation

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