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Mail-order Companies Greening Catalogs, Advertising

June 6, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ Those colorful advertisements filling your mailbox are turning green.

Catalog companies and direct-mail advertisers are using more recycled or recyclable paper, industry experts and exhibitors said Wednesday at the eighth annual Catalog Conference and Exhibition.

The Direct Marketing Association says Americans throw out 3.8 million tons of catalogs and direct-mail advertising every year. Much of it was glossy paper that is difficult to recycle.

″This is not a tree-hugging issue. This is a landfill issue, a solid-waste issue,″ Robert J. Teufel, chairman of the DMA’s Task Force on Environmental Issues, said Wednesday. ″This is probably the biggest long-term issue facing this industry.″

″There has been an enormous increase in concern by the businesses involved in direct marketing,″ he said.

Many mail-order companies have begun printing parts of their catalogs on recycled paper, including Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean and Roberta Fortune’s Almanac, according to the DMA. Others, including Esprit de Corp., MacConnection, Patagonia and Seventh Generation print their entire catalogs on recycled paper.

Environmental concern among advertisers has risen dramatically in the last few years, responding to growing concern among consumers, exhibitors said.

″We’ve seen it change totally, from something of a specialty to the main line,″ said Jonathan Bloom, president of JB Papers, based in Union, N.J.

″There is a lot more demand for recycling options,″ agreed Bill Chalifoux, sales representative for Webcraft, a printing and paper company based in North Brunswick, N.J. ″Almost all my customers want to look at it, and even though it’s more expensive, two of my biggest accounts have taken the step.″

Mark Floegel of the environmental group Greenpeace in Washington said the change will help protect the environment.

″If we’re going to accept a world in which we’re going to have gluts of catalogs coming through our mail slot, then we want a world where the paper for those catalogs is produced in as environmentally-friendly a way as possible,″ he said. ″There’s no reason we should be cutting down 1,000-year- old Douglas fir trees and turning them into Victoria’s Secret catalogs.″

Recycling is not the only way advertisers can help the environment, the DMA’s Teufel said. They can use non-toxic inks and water-soluble glues, limit the number of mailings and purge their mailing lists of the names of consumers who don’t want their advertising, he said.

Last year, only five U.S. mills had machines to wash off the coating and remove the ink from the paper, according to the American Paper Institute. There will be nearly 50 such plants in operation by 1993, the institute estimates.

One exhibitor said advertisers don’t have to use paper at all - they can offer their catalogs electronically to computer users.

″Costs of paper, printing, postage and transportation are going way up, while costs of communication, using the telephone, are going down,″ said Douglas C. Ahlers, president of Modem Media of Westport, Conn. ″This is definitely the future: When people say, ‘Hey, I want to buy something,’ they’ll think of using the computer.″

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