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Kids books said to be eco-unfriendly

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Despite efforts by the book publishing industry to take a greener approach to production, four-color children's books are still being produced using paper fiber linked to the destruction of endangered rainforests, according to a report released Monday by Rainforest Action Network.

The organization tested a random sampling of 30 books from the top 10 U.S. children's publishers, and found that 18 of them contained fibers linked either to tropical hardwoods or acacia pulp wood plantations in Indonesia. Paper and pulp companies raze natural rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra to create the plantations.

Nine of the 10 publishers had books that contained the controversial fiber. Some of the books that tested positively actually addressed environmental issues.

The report also noted that five of the 10 publishers have procurement policies aimed at reducing their environmental impact, and that those with the policies performed no better than the ones that didn't.

Rainforest Action Network released the report in advance of Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the book industry, which opens Tuesday at the Javits Center.

The razing of the Indonesian rainforests has destroyed habitats of endangered species and contributed to making the archipelago the third-largest source of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China.

Environmentalists say the use of paper with the controversial fiber can be traced to buying practices of Chinese manufacturers. U.S. publishers are increasingly turning to China for low cost production of four-color books.

Publishers may specify that paper should not come from pulp linked to the rainforests or the plantations, but they don't know what they're getting, according to Lafcadio Cortesi, forest campaign director at Rainforest Action Network.

“It turns out China is a bit of a black box in terms of information,” Mr. Cortesi said. “We are recommending to publishers that they be explicit with the printer about what paper they can use and not use.”

He added that U.S. book publishers were surprised by the study's findings and “want to do something about it.”

Crain's New York Business
Matthew Flamm
Monday, May 24, 2010

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