Newspaper industry told to recycle: Gummer threatens to enact legislation if voluntary agreement is not honoured

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The Independent Online
THE ENVIRONMENT Secretary, John Gummer, has ordered newspaper publishers to increase recycling. He is holding out the threat of legislation compelling them to use more waste paper if they fail to keep to a voluntary agreement.

Mr Gummer has told industry executives to produce a written plan by Christmas showing how they are to achieve a 40 per cent recycled content by the year 2000. Today's percentage is 27 per cent and shows signs of slipping, according to the Department of the Environment.

The industry signed the voluntary agreement two years ago but the department fears it is not taking its commitment seriously.

Mr Gummer has made recycling and energy-saving his top environmental priorities. In July he gave the packaging and grocery industries five months to form a plan to recycle, re-use or eliminate at least half of household packaging waste.

There are three British newsprint mills using large quantities of waste paper. Together they supply a third of the 1.9 million tonnes of newsprint used yearly by the industry.

Hitting the 40 per cent recycled content target depends mainly on building one or more new British newsprint mills using waste paper as raw material - and on the publishers buying its product.

The Swedish company SCA has been planning such a mill at Aylesford, Kent, for years. The pounds 260m plant would produce 280,000 tonnes a year, substantially boosting British newsprint capacity.

The Department of Trade and Industry has offered a pounds 20m grant towards the cost of the plant, the largest private sector manufacturing project in Britain.

British newspaper publishers say they are willing to buy more UK- manufactured newsprint made from waste paper, but only in principle and provided it competes with imports on quality and price.

Newspaper Publishing plc, owner of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday, buys a third of its newsprint from the Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, mill of the Bridgewater Paper Company, whose product is mostly made from waste paper. The recycled content of the company's newspapers ranges between 37 and 47 per cent.