Just how much plastic?
Before I get started I just wanted to say that there are too many comics relying on the gimmick of cheap, throw away toys. I have used this comic as an illustration of a larger scale problem. I’m not picking on this particular magazine for any other reason than to illustrate the issue that seems to be out of control.
If you live in the UK, go into W.H. Smiths or any big superstore such as ASDA, Sainsbury's, Tesco's or Morrisions. Wander over to the newspaper section, and look at the children's comics and magazines. Look at the breadth of magazines, but more importantly, look at the packaging, and the additional items in the packaging.
Each one is designed to entice a child or a parent to commit to buying it, because of a perceived value. But, really, are we that naive? Do we really fail to notice in the 21st Century, when we are bemoaning the single use plastic culture, that these comics simply are adding to the problem in a big way.
Let’s start by talking value. This particular magazine is less expensive than other big brand magazines. It cost £4.30 on the cover (well, you do have to hunt for the price, and remember you may have a screaming child wanting to get their hands on it!!). When you finally find the price, £4.30 for a comic, and all the additional gifts that are neatly encased in a plastic bag doesn’t sound too bad?
Opening the bag, you have the following items:
- A laminated cardboard box of stickers
- A Sheet of glittering stickers
- A Plastic Ruler (Giraffe)
- A Pencil with a rubber, rubber wrapped in plastic,
- A Book
- A Set of small plastic animals, and a plastic bath.
It is fair to say that none of the above is designed to last. But wait, they will last. As we all know the life time of plastic is hundreds of years. Card can be recycled, but plastic covered card isn’t, and laminate card isn’t easily.
Examining the selection of gifts, it is fair to say, that the majority of this items will not make it into a recyclable situation. The Pink Giraffe ruler doesn’t have any marking indicating the plastic can be recycled. In fairness the book could be recycled, but it is so low grade paper, that it might not be worth it.!
The main point of this rant is that it is only when you realise that there are at least 90 pre-school comics and magazines of which a high proportion will have plastic waste included. I checked the circulation figures for these magazines, something that you can do online on the following link.
Cuddles, the magazine I’m using as an illustration of the issue, doesn’t have a published circulation figure, however, many of the other magazines do. Averaging 25,000 to 40,000 circulation (both print and digital) in a six month period. It is worth pointing out that the digital versions do not have this problem, and the figures do not contain a split between, which then makes it hard to quantify the problem.
Where does the responsibility for this issue lie? Is it ourselves as consumers, happily buying the product? Is it the outlelts for stocking the products? Is it the publishers for producing the item?
It is a highly competitive market, and companies wouldn't be in it if they weren't making money along the way. I would say that you are not going to produce something of quality that can be recycled and attached it to a magazine along with five other items and be able to sell the magazine for £4.30.
But, as with all these things, there are steps you can take to change the publishers behaviours.
Buy the digital version. While there is an impact of having tablet computer, you reduce the impact of purchasing a physical magazine. Cost of good are less, the publisher still makes money, and the impact on the environment is less.