As I sat on the train to London the other day, I started to take notice of the way my fellow travellers were busying themselves during their journey. Many were wired in to their headphones listening to music, others were texting on their phones and a couple had Kindles and iPads. But what struck me was just how many commuters boarded the train with a copy of the Metro – good old fashioned hard copy print – and the world’s largest free newspaper with a print run of 1.3m copies! These passengers duly digested the latest news before popping their copy on the seat beside them and then leaving at their respective stops. What fascinated me was what happened to these newspapers next. A new occupant would come along, pick up the same newspaper, read it, put it down and then leave the train and so on. My journey in to London is quite a lengthy one, so you can imagine just how many times this happened.
On arrival in London, the cleaners boarded the carriage with their recycling bags and collected the well-read copies ready to send off for recycling.
The cycle started again on the way home, but this time it was the Evening Standard. And similarly, each copy left behind in the carriage was picked up by several other commuters as they came and went about their journey. At the end of the line, I was again amused to see the cleaners board the train to collect the newspapers up.
It’s all too easy to forget that digital communication all has an environmental impact….all devices need charging and each gadget generally serves just one person. But how can anyone having been on that train and studied the journeys of these printed newspapers like me say, that print is not environmentally friendly? I should imagine that both the Metro and the Evening Standard are printed on either recycled or sustainable paper, and how effective is their self-perpetuating circulation. This has to be one of the most successful means of circulating printed communication….a perpetual cycle of recycle, print, consume, pass on and recycle.