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Plastic Books

There’s a interesting NYT article Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time about the greening of books. Using recycled paper is nice, but to repeatable enough to be truly green. The solution? Plastic!

Paper can be recycled only about three times before it’s no longer high enough quality to use for books; lower quality papers can be recycled about seven times.

Paradoxically, the greenest book on the market may be one made not from paper, but from — the horror! — plastic. In their 2002 environmental manifesto, “Cradle to Cradle,” William McDonough, the green architecture pioneer, and Michael Braungart, a German chemist, argue that traditional recycling just delays the trip to the landfill, and push for developing reusable materials. (Paper can be recycled only about three times before it’s no longer high enough quality to use for books; lower quality papers can be recycled about seven times.) To prove their point, they had the book published on plastic — DuraBook, a patented material developed by Melcher Media, a book packager and publisher in New York that also produced Al Gore’s book. “The medium is the message,” McDonough said in a telephone interview. “The planet is awash in plastic, literally . . . so why not use plastic for books instead of paper?” The book can be melted down and used to make new books or other products, which themselves could be melted down again. “We need plastics. We’re not going to go back to nature,” McDonough said. “We’re not going back to being hunter-gatherers. The best thing is to use them.”

Ah, the many uses of plastic!

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

4 Comments on Plastic Books

  1. What was that saying the Plastics Industry Council (or whatever they call themselves now) used to use?

    “Plastics makes things possible”?


  2. Yet another argument for books made from 100% recycled electrons!


  3. Plastic huh?

    I don’t really know what to think.

    By using plastic the environment may have a chance to come back up alive since the cutting of all those gorgeous greens will finally go down, and yet with all the production of plastic, the earth will one day be taken over by little plastic monsters. Remember, guys, plastic doesn’t decay and decompose.

    One question: With these plastic as pages, will there be the same number of paper cuts? Lolz. 😉

  4. Russell Klein // December 31, 2008 at 9:22 am //

    I have tremendous respect from Mr. McDonough, however plastic books are of value only to the extent that they intercept post-consumer or post-industrial plastic on its way to the landfill.

    Their role in the salvation of humanity is limited as — despite the explicit suggestion of their recyclability — they are contaminants to typical US collections as the processing — the sorting of fiber/pulp-based books from plastic — is completely out of the question with current processing methods.

    Bottom line: The plastic will only serve to contaminate paper loads going to end markets/manufacturers, thus undermining the reputed utility of “plastic books.”

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