Sunday reading

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 10 Aug 08, 07:05 PM GMT

I had thought I would find it difficult to buy a Sunday newspaper without plastic as the supplements - and sometimes the whole paper - always appear to be encased in polythene, in London at least.

However, we have spent the weekend in Stafford and at the newsagents round the corner from my parents' house this morning, I was hard put to find one that did involve a plastic bag.

The shopkeeper said only the supermarkets in this area receive the plastic-packed versions.

I do not know why there appears to be a variation in policy for different shops and different locations but I will let you know if I find out.


  • Comment number 1.

    There are plenty of plastic-free newspapers in London. Unfortunately, these tend to be the tabloids. No shortage of Metros (not too bad actually), Lites, or London Papers on the trains and on the streets of central London. Then again, the Evening Standard is easily available plastic-free from those small mobile stands found in crowded areas. If you are looking for a good old broadsheet, then perhaps you could look at the electronic versions available online for free! I myself am a particularly avid reader of the BBC news website.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Chris,

    Polythene, from magazines, is now recyclable. I collect it in a large envelope for dispatch to Norwich where 2 companies can use it. They will accept other examples as well, with stretchability a test for this particular plastic type.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is a fascinating venture! I'm in semi-rural Vermont USA. Recycling is up to us, and we do the best we can.
    Your dedication is admirable and informative.
    Thanks for undertaking the challenge.

  • Comment number 4.


    I just got back to your blog today. You are doing so well amid a lot of challenges. Keep up the good work. Don't be too hard on yourself for a few 'slips.' You are doing a very good thing to bring awareness of how much plastic pervades our lives.

    I will add that while I, too, am a Zero Waste enthusiast, I consider recycling to be an important part of this process. I do not consider plastic to be an 'evil' invention especially when it can be recycled. I think it has it's place but should not be over-used or left to pollute our land fills.

    You are giving all of us a forum to share ideas, debate and learn new things. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 5.

    The problem if it's not encased in plastic is that there's always one supplement or another missing - usually the one you wanted to read!

  • Comment number 6.

    "The Sunday Papers......"

    How awfully ironic, that national treasure of 350 pages, unreadable by anyones Sunday timetable. All swathed in a lovely plastic bag (albeit apparently only from supermarkets - which didn't seem true today).

    The irony being the press are apparently the environmental conscience and voice of the nation with their "War On Waste" campaigns and alike.

    It staggers me they have the hypocritical gall to manifest such ill concieved crusades whilst flying journos half way round the world on a daily basis to then print it up on a myriad of pointless pages then tuck it in some plastic to keep it all together and drive it to all points of the country.

    "Stones, glass house anyone......?"

  • Comment number 7.

    Smaller shops do not have the plethora of supplements in plastic wrapping because they are paid to insert them into the main newspaper, known as pagination. Supermarkets work on a much larger scale and do not bother with such margins.

    As demonstrated, on a smaller basis individuals will save or make money if given an opportunity. Maybe we should adjust the law around recycling and let the market do its work.

  • Comment number 8.

    As someone who, until last year, was responsible for the IT systems used to distribute 32 million national newspapers a week throughout the UK I know a little about this subject. (In fact I knew a lot which was why I wasn't too sorry to leave - it wasn't exactly my ambition when I left university, but anyway I digress).

    My understanding is that the supermarkets first insisted on poly-wrapping because the advertising inserts used to fall on the floor creating a) a mess, and b) a health and safety issue because they were easy to slip up on.

    Obviously the advertisers were none too happy that customers would shake the newspaper to remove all the unwanted inserts before they even left the shop (you can of course do this in an un-personal supermarket but not in a corner shop)

    What you now see is all the inserts contained in the poly-bag with all the magazines, so everyone gets to take them home and recycle them there. In supermarkets the magazine poly-bag is then polywrapped with all the newsprint sections. This ensures that customers receive the full product when buying from a supermarket where there is more chance of sections falling apart.

    There is also a cost-saving for publishers because they do not have to pay retailers handling credits for putting the sections of the newspaper together (because historically magazines would be delivered in one bundle, pre-printed non-time critical sections in another and live news and sport in another etc.)

    However, there are some anomolies, for reasons that I never fully understood the good people of Aberystwyth always received fully poly-wrapped copies. whether buying them from a supermarket or not.

    As I said, I know a lot about this, I could go on but I won't.......

  • Comment number 9.

    My point is not the practicalities or economics of the arrangement and practice. My point is the gross hypocrisy on the part of the press to force such enormous quantities of paper onto people, wrap it in plastic and then print pages of diatribe professing their own eco-credentials under "War On Waste" banners.

  • Comment number 10.

    There's a simple answer here. Don't bother reading the newspapers. Seriously - if you want news, don't bother. (If you want cant, rhetoric, hyperbole and opinion dressed up as news on the other hand...)

    I don't, and I'm happier for it. The Beeb website and the other news feeds give me all the news I want, and anyway I devote most of my reading time to books. When I do occasionally read a paper, I always pick something incredibly tedious and factual - the sort of paper that doesn't plastic wrap lifestyle supplements because it doesn't *do* lifestyle supplements. Unfortunately, that leaves you with the FT or the International Herald Tribune, but if you only read them occasionally that's ok.

  • Comment number 11.


    As I stated earlier polythene is recyclable. I do not like waste plastic but accept that recyclable plastic is part of the sustainable future. The recycling system is basic so far but superstrores may be able to provide collection/distribution services to improve the situation.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I noticed in the Waitrose near me there is a recycling bin next to the newspaper stand for people to chuck their unwanted supplements in before leaving the shop.

  • Comment number 14.

    9# - idontmunchbut -

    I think if the media stopped using newspapers and mags people would complain that the news is not accessable/available etc to everyone. Also I think your picking at a minor point...the media is there to (mostly) bring news of the most up to date and important issues, the waste problem being one of them, I dont see how nespapers using their mediums of paper and plastic coated mags is hypocritical at all its just important to promote the issues of waste, and if it has to be done on paper then all the better as they can say..."recycling is much needed etc etc....dont forget to recycle this paper"... I haven't come across any news source whether a station, paper or tabloid that says "we are doing much more than anyone else in the war on waste so you should all too"...its more a case of "here is what should be done, this is how you can help and this is what we are doing to help"
    I think the over all goal of any news/media station is to bring about more awareness of issues, if that means using all meduims including recyclable paper then it is a good thing...its up to the public who what and are entitled to these rights to actually recycle them etc, and with out the media promoting these issues who's to know that recycling etc is needed and waste is a problem??

  • Comment number 15.

    Absolutely agree with every point - check out my previous posts. I'm on your side.

    Not seen this before, not being a waitrose shopper. Interesting that having used so much energy to produce and distribute such an abundance of paper customers are then offered a bin for throwing away the news they have just bought and paid for and never wanted in the first place. Hmmm!

    I am not knocking the news - I buy a paper and enjoy reading it.

    My point is the hypocrisy and irony of a 'war on waste' with the endless competition for who can have the most supplements and therefore fattest paper.

    My point about stones and glasshouses stands, sorry.

  • Comment number 16.


    The media have a crucial role in informing the public. The BBC leading the way as it should. Newspaper headlines and columnist articles/campaigns add to the trend.

    There has been mention of plastic-wrapping of papers. This is a non-issue. This plastic is recyclable!

    Chris's blog has a broadened the debate and that is very welcome too. I hope others join-in. One thing I have found is that once you take up the challenge the trend is one-way, ie towards Zero.

  • Comment number 17.

    #16: johnhcrf

    I' am not debating th validity and role of the media. I get why we all need to be informed with independent news and commentary.

    My point is a rather flippant one re' the hypocrisy of a 'war on waste' whilst competing to offer the fattest offer on the stand and thereby consume the most material in the course of this competition, paper in this case. Add to this they wrap it in plastic to keep it all together then I think my point re' hypocrisy is a valid one.

    PS: Your comment re' "plastic wrapping of papers" being a "non-issue" due to the fact that it is "recyclable" undoes your entire argument over this and previous posts. The overwhelming majority of plastics used today are "recyclable", therefore using your own logic plastic use is a "non-issue" due to its recyclability. This rather proves a point that I and several others have been trying to make yet you and the 'enthusiasts' are seemingly deaf to.

  • Comment number 18.


    Polythene is recyclable. What about all the plastic waste which is not recycled?

    If you took responsibility for your waste that would improve the situation? A sustainable lifecycle rather than the waste cycle you have maintained.

    I choose not to use your waste. I ask others to join me.

  • Comment number 19.

    My sister used to own a newsshop. She was 'paid' for doing the inserts. But nowhere near enough to make it economic what with the 0500 starts so we could make up the rounds and do the deliveries and the hiring extra hands so it can be done on time. And it spreads to Fridays and saturdays now. Newspapers are 'sale or return' but the publishers don't take back the supplements just the basic paper as proof of non sale. We had to then unbag the supplements and separate the plastic so WE could recycle the paper. Supermarkets because of thier buying power can insist on a more efficient process but it's less profitable for the publisher, though made up for in volumes.
    Think abut this: We live in the UAE. When we lived in UK my wife and I produced 1/2 a black sack a week on average of non recyclable waste. In the UAE we produce about a sackful everyday - and we're making an effort. This is economic and ecological madness. There is no viable recycling here though a casual visitor might thik otherwise seeing the 'Recycle ' bins in many areas. But no one uses them really and those that do use them randomly. Hopeless.

  • Comment number 20.

    #18: johnhcrf

    I'm sorry but where did it become "my waste" that you are choosing not to take my dear chap?

    PS: There is a huge difference between "recycled" and "recyclable", don't confuse the two.

    Less than 2% of LA's collect plastic films for recycling, whereas as around 16% collect rigid (non-bottle) plastics.

  • Comment number 21.


    It certainly is not my waste, since I do not use it!

    In a sustainable cycle there is minimal waste. That is the future not your present nightmare!

  • Comment number 22.

    #: 21 johnhcrf

    I dont think you have answered my question, at least not in a way my simple brain can understand....

    You commented that you "choose not to use my waste". This reads that you somehow think I am personally responsible for pushing waste onto you. I was merely asking how and when it became "my waste"?

  • Comment number 23.


    This material you provide ends up in landfill.
    Why not accept responsibility for this? If you did then maybe the practice would end.
    In a sustainable system there would be minimal waste. Can you not see the value of this?

  • Comment number 24.


    I am not following you.
    Which of the following do you mean:-

    1. I personally put waste onto you that you dont want?

    2. My personal waste all goes to landfill?

  • Comment number 25.


    The questions asked get to the heart of the problem. A lack of answers is very revealing.

    Change will be difficult and the best way to proceed is by increment. Polythene is a good starting point. Facilities should be in place to collect this waste from consumers at central superstore locations. This collected material can be recycled to the 2 Norwich plants for reuse. This is not a Government scheme but an industry led one.

    There are other good areas. HDPE recycling for ready-meals is one positive contribution.
    I look forward to buying these again when the waste element is removed.

  • Comment number 26.

    My grandad used to deliver and sort papers, the reason newsagents dont get them in plastic is because newsagents receive the inserts seperately to put inside when they sort them, so obviously the supermarkets dont have the time to do this.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm with AdeJones (#10) recycling is such a huge issue now (not just plastic as in this project, but paper too!) surely instead of buying papers, we just turn to news websites. The Beeb gives me all the news I need and all my reading is concentrated on books (which are usually made of recycled paper!)


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