Assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of newspaper wrapping options for The Guardian, one of Britain’s leading newspapers thereby enabling Guardian News & Media (GNM) to reduce the environmental footprint of its newspapers.

Our Approach

The Guardian is one of the major newspapers in the UK with a print run of 400,000 plus copies and one of the most visited websites. GNM is continually seeking to improve the environmental impact of its newspaper and was seeking to investigate alternative options for its polybags.  The polybags are used to hold together the multi-sectioned weekend papers and, for some supermarket clients, to provide its publications ready bundled and, as such are commercially essential.

A small team of ERM’s life cycle assessment experts worked closely with The Guardian wrapping suppliers to calculate the life cycle environmental impacts of three different wrapping types: 

  • The existing polythene wrap;
  • A polythene wrap with recycled content; and
  • A biodegradable wrap.

Although perceived as being better environmentally, it was found that the environmental profile of the biodegradable wrap was higher than those of the other two wrapping options investigated.  This was due both to higher energy consumption in the production of components of the bioplastic, and to emissions released during degradation in landfill or composting.

The recommendation to GNM was to continue with the current wrapping option and to seek to minimize the quantity of film used and/or the film thickness, and ultimately to seek to introduce recycled content without increasing film thickness.

Benefits and Value

Based on the project findings, GMN has reduced the thickness of its existing plastic wrap by 20%, and has successfully tested the use of 25% recycled polythene. 

GMN is committed to improving its environmental performance with the aim to eventually become environmentally regenerative (carbon positive).  ERM’s assistance helped GMN in making the best environmental decision amongst the wrapping options considered.