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Happy Recycle Day

Frank Locantore, director of the Woodwise project for Co-op America Washington, D.C.
Friday November 15, 2002

To the Editor: 


Today, Nov. 15, has been officially proclaimed America Recycles Day. But it might be more accurate to call it “America Doesn’t Recycle Day.” Recent news reports have detailed a slowdown in recycling across the country. And despite media images of recycling-crazed suburban moms filling recycling bins across the country, we never fully took to recycling in the first place, especially when it came to actually buying products made from the materials recycled out of those bins. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the magazine industry, which today logs 35 million trees each year to make magazine paper. Despite the myth that all paper today is recycled paper, less than 5 percent of magazine paper has any recycled content at all. This is even worse than the record of office and printing paper, less than 10 percent of which has any recycled content. As a result, a tree is cut down every second to produce paper just for magazines. Each year the magazine industry clears an area the size of Rocky Mountain National Park. And paper production is a significant source of major greenhouse gases. 

All that pollution and logging goes to produce the millions of magazines arranged so nicely on racks in bookstores and supermarkets, including every issue of Time and Newsweek. Even nature and travel magazines that should know better, such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler and Sunset, use 100 percent virgin paper for almost all of their print run. 

Why? Well, it’s not for lacking a good supply of high-quality, competitively-priced recycled paper. Take a look at Audubon and Sierra magazines, or even the Norm Thompson Outfitters catalog. They all feature shiny, glossy, white paper and use paper with 10 percent recycled content. That may not sound like a lot, but for magazine production, it’s a significant difference. 

Recycling is easy. Just ask for it. 


Susan Kinsella, executive director of San Francisco-based Conservatree 


Frank Locantore, director of the Woodwise project for Co-op America 

Washington, D.C.