Almost half the government's printing output, estimated between 140 and 150 tonnes annually, yesterday started being produced on recycled paper and there are plans to increase this to 70 per cent by next year.

This emerged as Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said yesterday toured the government printing press to see the first Government Gazette being printed on recycled paper.

Eco-friendliness always comes at a price as recycled paper costs on average about 20 per cent more than normal paper, press director Carmel Sammut explained. Consequently, the shift to recycled paper will cost the government an extra €5,000 to €6,000 a year to print the government's official publication and its supplements.

However, the expense was likely to diminsh in the future with an increase in demand for recycled paper, brought about by higher public awareness.

Mr Sammut said that 40 per cent of the press's output was on recycled paper and the plans were to eventually go for 100 per cent recycled paper. But before that can be done, the printing press had to exhaust its stock of conventional paper. This could take quite some time, Mr Sammut said, because some of the type of paper in stock was slow-moving and had specific uses.

He said the printing press was conducting preliminary research to switch to Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper in the future. FSC is a worldwide certification system established for forests and forest products, often regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade aimed at promoting better forest management. This attempts to mitigate climate change through forest conservation efforts such as planting and replanting of various species and techniques for the prevention of fire.

Dr Said, on whos initiative the project was initiated, explained that the change to recycled paper was expected to be considerable as the Government Gazette is published at least twice a week.

The Gazette, in print since 1813, had 191 editions published last year which added up to 12,534 pages. These were accompanied by 361 legal notices (4,454 pages), 16 laws (452 pages), 18 Bills (626 pages) and three local council by-laws (34 pages).

The Gazette has a print run of 650 copies per issue, bringing the total number of paper sheets to 11,765,000.

Dr Said observed that the recycled paper, which will be used, is indistinguishable from normal paper, except for occasional small black specks. Shifting to recycled paper was only one measure among others aimed at making the government administration more eco-friendly. He added that the paper waste was also being separated and sent for recycling as were spent aluminium plates.

Moreover, the packing system for publications has been changed with the introduction of two strapping machines reducing the use of cardboard boxes by 80 per cent.

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