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Groups Oppose Google's Anti-Print Initiative

A "Go Paperless in 2013" initiative by Google and a number of digital companies that have a vested interest in a non-paper communications stream, has drawn the ire of the Printing Industries of America and other groups that promote the responsible use of print and paper as an attractive, practical and sustainable communications medium.

In an open letter to Google, Michael Makin, PIA president, challenged the technology giant on its "self-righteous environmental stance," while noting the printing industry has long utilized sustainable processes. "The primary raw material for printing is paper, which comes from trees, which are a renewable resource."

Another print industry group, Two Sides, also sent an open letter asking Google to reconsider its participation in the campaign. "While the products and services delivered by Google are to be admired," Two Sides UK director Martyn Eustace and Phil Riebel, president of Two Side US, wrote in the letter, "this new initiative is clearly another example of a self-interested organization using an environmentally focused marketing campaign to promote its services while ignoring its own impact upon the environment."

Two Sides noted that according to Greenpeace, electronic waste is the fastest growing component of municipal solid waste. It makes up five percent of all municipal solid waste worldwide. "Google and others need to examine their own impacts and perhaps might reflect that, on balance, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate."

Printing has a one-time carbon footprint – unlike electronic media, Makin explained in his letter. "Electronic devices, which Google produces, for example, require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents and other non-renewable resources," he said. "Moreover, 50-80 percent of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and is often unsafely dismantled. For Google to call for a paperless world is hypocritical to say the least."

A new tool from the PIA aims to dispel myths associated with the print industry. "The Value of Print" is a flip-book available in print and online formats, as well as a mobile app. To learn more, visit www.printing.org/valueofprint.

For more information, visit www.paperless2013.org, www.printing.org and www.twosides.us.