OF THE 120 million holiday brochures produced every year by tour operators for distribution through travel agencies, more than a third are thrown away unread, a report claims.

The environmental tourism consultant Green Flag International says that up to 48 million brochures, costing about pounds 35.5m, are wasted. 'If each brochure weighs about 500gm, this would be approximately 24,000 tonnes of brochures, or the product of over 400,000 trees,' it says.

Green Flag's research indicates that fewer than a fifth of travel agencies pass surplus brochures on to a recycling company. Its report says operators are 'throwing their money into the rubbish bin in a search for the 'extra booking' by overproducing into a saturated market'.

The bigger tour operators say they have to distribute 20 brochures for every booking - small operators have a 'conversion ratio' of one booking for every 32. 'The most worrying aspect of the brochure industry is the continuing treatment of its product as a 'free good' . . . . Where else but in a travel agents could you walk out with as much as pounds 20-worth of publications free of charge? In reality . . . there is a cost and this must be met by the person who eventually books a holiday.'

'Review of the Environmental Impact of the Travel Brochure Industry', price pounds 15: Green Flag International, PO Box 396, Linton, Cambridge CB1 6UL (0223 893587).