Ocean plastic has been bothering me. It’s been bothering lots of people, obviously, because it’s a really bad thing.
I saw that the new Real Madrid alternative kit is made completely from ocean plastic, and it made me think about ways in which books could be made so that they have less impact on the environment.
Could book covers, for example, be made from ocean plastic rather than cardboard? Is anyone producing ink that uses this kind of waste? How could we produce printed books more sustainably? Can we drift away from traditional manufacturing methods, showing our commitment to environmental stewardship? These aren’t questions to which I have answers, but they do all intrigue me.
Sustainable, environmentally friendly books exist, of course; they’re called ebooks! But that’s not what I’m thinking about. Making print books friendlier to our planet seems like a smart thing to do. Recycled paper is great, but even with that there are concerns about the footprint it leaves. Coming up with a way to make more bits of the book itself from materials that are killing our planet on a daily basis could create a business (and jobs) for people and would make the things we all love that much lovelier.
3D printers can use ocean plastic to make the “ink” they need to create things. In fact, could covers be produced by 3D printers? How cheap and effective is that? There’s printing ink made from car exhaust! Yes, that’s a thing. Could we use that? Hemp used to be the primary source material for making paper. Is that an option we could return to? Is it any better than other paper? Can that ocean plastic be made thin enough that it could be used as a paper replacement?
The marketing and branding return on such an investment is obvious: we’re making books that help clean up our oceans! And I think we’d gain some sales even though, at least to start with, we’d have to increase the price on such books because I’m guessing it would cost more to create plastic covers than it does to create cardboard ones. Would we also gain authors who just have to be published by the most Earth-loving UP on the planet? But that isn’t the main reason to contemplate this kind of sea change (sorry) in the manufacturing of books. If we can help take plastic out of the ocean, that would make everything we do better. And, because we’re talking about books here—a thing that book lovers just hate to part with—, it’s not like we’re going to replace the ocean plastic we remove with the plastic from the books when someone is done reading them!
Lots of questions, few answers here. I’m just pondering what might be possible and in the meantime, putting in place these fifteen ways to reduce my plastic consumption.
About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director of Cornell University Press. He is struggling with the idea that he wrote a blog inspired by Real Madrid. Gooner for Life.