Magazine Publishers See Recycling in Their Future

STACK up those old magazines, and get ready to recycle. A new technology is coming on line in the United States that promises to mash up magazines without getting gummed up with the sticky bindings and clogged up with the colored clay coatings. Those elements make magazines troublesome in the traditional de-inking process that washes the inks off papers at high temperatures.

``Flotation'' de-inking uses air bubbles to float off ink particles, and it runs at a lower temperature than the washing technique. This causes less trouble with melting the glues.

In fact, the clay in the magazines is needed to stabilize the air bubbles; a mix of 30 percent magazines and 70 percent newsprint is ideal. This method of de-inking has been used in Europe and Japan for many years, and will soon be used in US plants that recycle newsprint.

``This will create a demand for old magazines, giving us a new way to dispose of them without having to put them in the municipal landfills,'' says Donald Kummerfeld, president of Magazine Publishers of America (MPA).

Magazine paper, with its inks, calcium carbonate, and clay coatings, is the most difficult paper to recycle because the amount of reusable fiber that remains after washing is low compared with papers like newsprint and corrugated paperboard, Mr. Kummerfeld says. Thus recycling magazines is typically expensive and somewhat inefficient.

New study released

This month, in its first-ever study on magazine recycling, the MPA found that:

In 1989, 8 billion magazines were distributed, less than 5 percent of which are recycled.

Used magazines account for 2.5 percent of landfill waste by weight.

At newsstands, 15 percent of the 1.2 billion magazines go unsold and are returned to distributors; 5 percent of these are exported for recycling in markets like Korea and Italy; the rest are disposed of as trash.

Fewer than 10 percent of US magazine wholesalers sell their waste magazines to paper dealers.

Subscription sales account for 67 percent of the magazines - 5.36 billion; after use, nearly all of these enter the waste stream.

At present, only a handful of plants in North America can recycle magazines; by 1992, that number should reach 60, with 23 of them in the US.

One magazine wholesaler that recycles is Hudson County News in North Bergen, N.J., which distributes in New York and New Jersey. About 20 percent of the unsold magazines are sent back to publishers; the remaining 80 percent are shipped to a nearby mill and recycled into new products.

But the recycling loop usually ends there. Only a handful of magazines actually contain recycled paper, and that is uncoated, uncolored, and unglossy.

Some use recycled paper

Times Mirror Magazines uses a matte type of recycled paper in back-of-the-book sections of its magazines - for regional fishing tips in Saltwater Sportsman and classified ads in Outdoor Life. The recycled paper costs about the same as virgin paper.

``It sets the sections aside, so they really stand apart,'' says company president Francis Pandolfi.

Mainstream magazines, however, do not have many options. The coated paper they use is not available with recycled content at the right quality, quantity, and price, says Irving Herschbein, vice president of manufacturing and distribution at Cond'e Nast Publications, Inc. He hopes this will change. ``If you're not using recycled paper, you're not doing anything for the landfill problem.''

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