The Trouble With Making A Plastic Free Book

You’d have thought it would be easy right? Books are paper and ink? But the whole thing gave me a huge headache.

We started Dispatches From A Plastic Planet four years ago, and amazingly we got help from you guys out there, 47 of you to be exact, who backed the book. At the time we had a printer lined up to produce an incredibly environmentally friendly book, soy based inks, the most environmental friendly paper and a longer lasting print process. A year in and as the first volume was going to print they went out of business. It was the first case we faced where a company doing the right thing, couldn’t attract enough customers so the overall price of the process started to drop. It was a case of everybody went for the cheapest price, and environmentally friendliness went out fo the window.

I then spent a year trying to replace them, and actually couldn’t, there was no way we could achieve the print quality we wanted and the corresponding environmental levels without a 208 page hard backed coffee table book costing in excess of £100 for a smallish run. We then researched and researched and came up with our final product. We got the right paper quickly, we had to compromise on the ink, we used a process which uses the littlest amount as possible, but lasts for centuries, and does justice to the images. We ditched all adhesive from the books and went with a friendly dust jacket and ended up a couple of months ago with as close to a plastic free book as possible (sadly there is still a little adhesive in the stitched binding).

Now to the packaging, the problem is as follows – the safest and lightest and cheapest way of packaging a book is using plastic… not on for obvious reasons, especially as most is single use, or difficult to recycle. The alternative is cardboard, which is complicated. Creating cardboard in the first place uses between 50-70% more energy and there for more co2 than plastic, I know we were surprised. However it is easier to recycle, and in most places more likely to be. Now the next issue is that cardboard needs to come from a sustainable and ethical source, that takes a little bit of genuinely sorting out, there are a lot of greenwasher claims here. So it took nine months to find a solution that we didn’t have to put a huge order in for, and when you do receive them, please use again or recycle it, cardboard is environmentally taxing to make, but easy to recycle.

The arguments on the correct packaging is quite immense, but in the end we have created a beautiful coffee table book, with the correct packaging, all be it a good year past it’s original release date.

We have got a few extra printed, 100 extra to be exact, very limited edition, and a perfect stepping stone to the next phase of this project which will be released int eh spring. If you’d like one you can get one here (they will arrive around the first week of February, we get them next week). It costs £45, which is no small amount but includes postage and you will not find a better mix of shots from England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Iceland and France. After all of the above we make £4.70 which all goes to our educational campaign.


Dispatches From A Plastic Planet – Hardback 25 x 20 cm, 208 pages

204 page hardback book shot in France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Norway. Price includes postage WORLDWIDE


If you’d like to know more about what is in it you can see HERE

Tim Nunn

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