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13 July, 2007

On paper, wasted

I seem to have been mentioning recycling a lot this week (blame the BBC) but here's one more.

My office has just received the flat proofs of a forthcoming publication from the printers, to verify that the output of the production presses is as we require, before actually making the print run of several thousand copies.

To summarise the standard ISO 'A' paper size system, A0 has an area of 1 m² and each subsequent increment is half the size of the previous, so a sheet of A0 sliced in half across its width would give two sheets of A1, each of which would give two sheets of A2, etc.

Presuming the printers use that ISO system, each proof sheet looks to be A0 and is printed with four double-sided double-page spreads, widely spaced. Each individual page of the publication is A4, so that's 4xA3 on A0.
4xA3 = 2xA2 = A1= ½A0, which means fully half of each sheet is blank, to be cut off – for every 16 pages of the publication, 0.5m² of high-quality paper is simply discarded. I don't doubt it's recycled, but paper can only be reprocessed so many times before the fibres disintegrate, and chalk-rich, slightly shiny paper, itself using fresh wood pulp rather than recycled, can't be cheap.

The obvious solution would to be for the client/designer to make the individual pages smaller, thereby fitting the same number of double-page spreads onto A1 whilst still providing a moderate amount of essential offcutting space, or for the printer to use non-standard paper sizes specifically accommodating ISO sizes plus offcut space.
Maybe they do, and these proofs aren't laid out as on a production run. I hope so.

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