06 April 2020 Finishing

The paper based future of mailing

The industry adapts to the call for wrapping, switching away from films to find a more sustainable solution.

Most cover wraps are preprinted and supplied on the reel, The Lettershop Group and MAMS having inkjet presses dedicated for this, a Kodak Prosper for Leeds and Ricoh Pro VC70000 in Wakefield. When Lettershop first demonstrated its ability to print wraps with changing messages on the fly, the demand from publishers was not there. That was before the broadcast of Blue Planet that changed everything.

In less than two years since the film cover wrap has moved from being universally used by all publishers, whether producing consumer magazines, business magazines or membership and academic magazines, to being the least welcome material around a magazine.

Today it can feel as those that are still using film wrap are pariahs, such has been the rush to paper. The same trend applies to catalogues that arrive in the post. Even if they are still using LDPE films, the publishers are in deep discussions about more eco friendly ways of sending their publications to subscribers than hard to recycle material.

Some have chosen to use compostable film materials, frequently based on potato starch. These can be composted, but only in an industrial scale unit, not the pile of grass clippings at the end of the garden. The material is opaque, so affects any brand message that might be printed on a cover. And it is relatively expensive compared to the film. It will continue to play a limited role.

The most widely chosen substitute is paper, frequently preprinted for maximum doormat impact. And this has led to across the board investment in paper wrap machines or conversion of film machines to handle paper. Thus Walstead is producing wraps for all TI Media’s subscription titles in collaboration with Westcolour, a specialist mailing operation that has a site in Roche and has opened an operation alongside Walstead’s Bicester factory.

Between the two sites, West­colour is now wrapping TI Media’s 42 titles in FSC paper, all but three from Bicester, replacing 10.8 million film wraps with the equivalent in paper. This is being carbon balanced amounting to 144 tonnes of CO2. West­colour moved from a location a few miles away in Buckinghamshire so that the environmental gain from moving to paper was not lost in transporting magazines several miles up the road.

Walstead UK group sales director Jon Herndon says: “To take this project to this point in such a short space of time is extremely satisfying for all involved. It demonstrates what is possible through a close collaboration with our clients and meets the objectives for all key stakeholders around this extremely important topic of sustainability.”

It has meant heavy investment for Westcolour in a short space of time. It has installed five Sitma lines in the second half of last year, three running paper wrap and two for film. A further three are being installed, in Bicester, as this project rolls out.

In the first six months of paper wrapping the company used 290 tonnes of certified papers, amounting to removal of 97 tonnes of single-use plastic from the supply chain.

Each Sitma is fed with preprinted rolls which are then overprinted with the subscriber’s details in the same way that would have happened when printing to an opaque panel on a plastic film. TI Media is impressed enough to be testing the idea of paper wrap for newsstand copies as well as subscription, reducing the consumption of hard to recycle film in favour of a more environmentally friendly alternative.

Sitma has been involved in multiple projects in the last 18 months, likewise Italian manufacturer CMC. It has picked up significant business from MAMS, supplying machines to both its Wakefield and now its Wolverhampton sites to handle the growth in interest in paper wrap. The installation of the Ricoh inkjet at the end of last year is intended to cope with this rise in interest from magazine publishers.

These need the ability to print in full colour on the outside of the wrap, a complete change from film. With film the cover of the magazine is fully visible to the reader and he or she has to open the wrap to retrieve the publication if only to dispose of magazine in one recycling stream and the wrap in a second.

Consequently, most wrapping lines will only have inkjet capacity to print mono for an address directly to the film or to a cover sheet. When film is replaced by paper, a plain paper envelope may only have the same narrow band of black print with which to print the address, the corporate logo and a message to say that the publisher is taking a stand for sustainability. This may be challenging to read as the printhead can be limited in resolution.

Printheads, notably Duraflex or Duralink from Memjet, will change this, enabling printing on the fly for magazines with shorter print runs that cannot justify a reel of preprinted paper. This is not yet in place, though magazine printers are looking at how to enhance their mono only addressing capability.

Nottingham Trade Finishers is jumping into this space, offering to take preprinted sheets, wrap these around the magazine or catalogue and mail them. “There’s one element of the industry that wants the bigger volumes,” says managing director Richard Anstock, “but will not have the space or ability to invest in a reelfed machine, let alone the £1 million investment to print on the reel and wrap. But their customer wants to switch from film wrapping. Bio wraps have their own issues, perhaps making them not as environmentally friendly as we have been led to believe.

“So if you are a commercial printer without the wherewithal to produce the wrap, sending to a mailing house will mean it has to outsource the printing.”

NTF has come up with a template for sheet work that will wrap around the product, giving the marketer space to deliver a message on the inside of the wrapper as well as a perhaps personalised message on the outside of the wrap. “The printer has control over the colour and print quality and can match brand colours or the artwork of the cover inside the wrap,” says Anstock.

And the numbers are tailored to what the end customer wants. It does not need the minimum quantities that a mailing house might impose to cope with the set up waste that is always part of the process.

“We are looking at it a bit differently,” says Anstock. “People can send us a SRA2 sheet for an A4 product, on all papers, silk as well as uncoated or gloss, which we can make the wrap from. Or we can make positive contribution at the early stages of designing one-piece direct mail campaigns, especially for the more unusual and creative pieces. By assisting with the wide scope of formats we can offer while advising on the most cost effective production method to make it a reality.”

Other direct mail mailing companies are investing in the same sort of capability. Friedheim International shipped and installed a Buhrs 3000 at the Mail Shop this year, specifically for paper wrap. It provides a more environmental solution for those that want to be more sustainable, says the company. And a lot of those behind mail campaigns want to tick the green box. “Starch wraps have always been available at a cost, but never mainstream, now paperwrap has become the requirement almost overnight,” says a spokesman.

The capabilities of the Buhrs line enables a package to contain up to 14 inserts within a maximum 30mm depth. It joins a line up of film wrapping lines which remain in demand for less sensitive and more price conscious customers. Film remains lighter than paper so can command better discounts.

Another option which has fast gained acceptance, particularly for catalogues, is naked mailing, where the product is not wrapped at all, but has an address printed directly on the outside of the product. The fore edge remains open or perhaps sealed with a small tag. Royal Mail has offered this for some years but it is only now reaching any sort of popularity.

The cover remains the same with the back page designed to allow address details to be inkjet printed as normal. It is restrictive in that loose inserts are ruled out, but is the most environmentally friendly solution of all, as well as the most cost effective.

Concerns that the unprotected product can be damaged in the journey from printer to doorstep, appear ill founded. For almost its entire journey the catalogue is under cover and guaranteed to be dry.

And the system is being accepted by magazine publishers, at least in B2B and association membership. One says that it received constant pressure about its continuing use of polywrap, but since it switched to naked mailing has received nothing but compliments from members. For many the solution to the film wrap conundrum may be no wrap at all.

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