Waste not, want not

Lord Tyler

You may remember that when I was reporting on a Grand Committee debate in the Moses Room, I asked the Minister whether or not his waste regulations, chasing us all to be more responsible recyclers, was printed on recycled paper.  Lord Henley, a self-confessed “waste nerd”, admitted he didn’t know but has now been kind enough to reply with a detailed letter.

You learn something everyday.  In his letter he writes,

I am advised that, in line with TSO’s policy on the printing of all primary and secondary legislation, the text of the Regulations (i.e. excluding the covers) was printed using paper that has a minimum recycled content of 30%.  The paper used by TSO is 80gsm Sovereign White Wove which ahs archival properties that enhance the shelf life of the printed documents.  I understand that increasing the recycled content beyond that currently used by TSO would conflict with these archival properties.

TSO have advised us that two different stocks are used to produce the thicker covers for legislation and that neither of these stocks contains recycled content.  The stocks used by TSO for the cover are 160gsm Vanguard Cream Vellum, which is accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council, and 160gsm Kaskad Sparrow Grey.

I am also pleased to confirm that TSO are discussing with the National Archives the feasibility of including in future a statement in printed legislation on the recycled content of the paper that has been used.

In these days of electronic archiving, do you think that these excuses are worth paper they are written on?

7 comments for “Waste not, want not

  1. 31/03/2011 at 10:14 am

    I’m all for keeping all documents electronically. The argument usually used is that it may not be possible to read electronic documents on today’s storage media and in today’s formats in the future. However, I believe if it is managed properly, it should be possible to copy archives to the latest format as the old one becomes obsolete (not to mention keep multiple copies for security).

    Unfortunately, “managed properly” and “government IT” are not two phrases that tend to be used together, so it looks like we’ll have to settle for 30% recycled paper from accredited sustainable sources for the foreseeable future.

  2. Dave H
    31/03/2011 at 10:45 am

    I suspect that a printed copy on suitable paper will outlast any of the electronic alternatives if you’re looking for it to survive hundreds of years. The BBC decided many years ago not to trust magnetic media, CDs have a finite life, flash memory has a finite life, so you’re either onto microfiche (which probably also has a finite life) or carving it onto stone tablets.

    Anyway, the Magna Carta wouldn’t be nearly so impressive if all we had was a floppy disk.

  3. 31/03/2011 at 11:25 am

    As always the devil is in the detail, but I am minded to say yes: the excuse is valid.

    The detail I would like to know is the scale of the problem: how many pages of these documents are printed?

    The core problem is that certain paper/ink combinations age poorly – fax paper and inks being a well-known example. It is useless printing a document if it cannot be read when required.

    If you foresee needing documents more than fifty years in the future, then never, ever solely trust electronic archiving. It is not just a case of the physical media failing (e.g. hard disc failures), but also the data formats and retrieving that data. Try getting data back from a 1980s era 5.25 inch floppy disc. It is possible, but costly.

    Any environmental savings from using recycled paper could be swallowed up by the staff and paper costs of reprinting faded documents every fifteen years.

    • Daniel Olive
      11/04/2011 at 9:29 pm

      I suspect that while a fair amount of copies of TSO publications are printed, many of them are for users outside of Parliament (in many cases outside government) who would insist on having archival grade copies, partly because they don’t trust TSO websites to stick around and TSO would not be keen to give them copyable digital versions.

      The greater issue is probably order papers, Hansard etc. I have checked a Commons order paper and it doesn’t say what it’s printed on.

  4. Carl.H
    31/03/2011 at 11:57 am

    Do you know of a virus that attacks paper?

    Do you know of a foreign power that could possibly move to disrupt legislation by erasing information on paper or corrupting it whilst remaining in their own state ?

    Do you know how to access information electronically saved without electricity?

    Can words be added/subtracted to written/typed information without it being noticed ?

    Is there a disk drive/solid state memory that you can guarantee will last 100 years ?

    Formats of electronic documents change as we expand our knowledge and ability,keeping all known documents in the most up to date format would be more expensive.

  5. MilesJSD
    31/03/2011 at 12:05 pm

    Two factors:
    (1) Newspapers, Junk-mail, and Magazines destroy, on a life-supports-criminally-huge-scale –
    how many hectares and bio-tonnes of Trees
    every day ???

    (So a reasonably succinct report, or governancially* necessary-information paper, such as Lord Henley’s quoted above, should be classifiable as both non-wasteful and governancially-necessary.

    (2) Individual personal health** is a definite factor betwixt reading-from-screens and reading-from-hand-held papers:

    the latter is far more holistic, allowing more wholesome body movements and alternative-postures, as well as choices of places-in-which-to-read, and spaces on-text for annotations and note-making.

    * governancial = needs to be known by all levels of government which, in a Democracy at least, must include all levels of the People, as well as of the Experts and Parliamentarians.

    ** Eye-health has recently become inseparable from whole-of-body-and-mind health;
    one of Janet Goodrich’s ex-students wrote back saying that she had found that
    (“) in order to break up staring by the eyes, one needs first to break-up the staring of the body(“);
    and Robert-Michael Kaplan goes further and says that one’s ability to control one’s brain and nervous reflexes is an integral part of both seeing better and healing eye-impairments.

    All concerned here use the term “vision”;
    so evidently any advance that would help the governancial-places of our lives, especially the very sedentary, would surely improve both our physical eyes’ vision and our further-‘seeing’ mind-vision.
    (Therefore a paper or a book is far more personal-health-supportive than a computer-screen) – – –
    and is therefore more long-term ecologically-sound, and ‘wasting not, wanting not’.


  6. Twm O'r Nant
    02/04/2011 at 7:36 am

    After Carl’s questions most people would want them to go back to hard copy at all times!

    I wonder whether there is any reduction in cost
    from recycled paper or whether it actually costs more?

    I may ask the PO to keep all my post at a PO box; then I would only collect them about once every six weeks. THEY would otherwise deliver every day.

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