Paperback, a workers' co-operative that helped kick start and drive the market for recycled paper in the UK, is celebrating 25 years of successful trading.
The business was established in 1983 with the aim of completing the recycling loop - lots of community organisations collected waste paper, but there was no stable market for products made from it. Paperback persuaded more paper mills to turn it into usable paper products. Paperback bought these products and worked hard to establish a market for them.
From small beginnings Paperback grew steadily - moving into a purpose built warehouse in Bow, East London, and working to develop new grades of recycled paper.
Jan Kuiper, a founding and current member of the co-operative, explains that much of the motivation came from being a worker co-operative. 'Having a real stake in the company's fortunes makes for a greater commitment amongst the people working here,' says Jan.
The range and quality of recycled paper in the early 1980s were limited, so Paperback worked with PIRA (the Paper Industry Research Association), to develop the first coated recycled paper, 'Sylvan Coat'. This was the first of many collaborations which have helped transform the recycled paper market in the UK and the image of recycled paper itself.
'From selling to environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, we found ourselves supplying paper to COI, British Airport Authority, NatWest Bank, British Airways, Westminster Council, the Body Shop, Tesco and the BBC,' explains Jan.
These days recycled paper is widely accepted. Nearly 40% of paper is now collected for recycling in the UK. Recycled paper is often of high quality and is now also stocked by many larger conventional paper companies.
But Paperback - an ethical business and member of Co-operativesUK - has always remained ahead of the game. It was the first FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper merchant in Europe, for example, and produced a new range of natural looking papers under the Cairn brand name which have proved popular with customers such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and the Royal Mail.
Leading environmentalist Jonathan Porritt wished Paperback a happy 25th birthday. 'This workers' co-operative is one of those organisations that will be seen to have built the foundations of a genuinely sustainable economy,' says Jonathan. 'For 25 years, they've sweated and innovated, grafted and crafted their way through good times and bad - with an absolute integrity and an unstinting commitment to helping others understand and benefit from their own sustainability insights.'
Find out more about Paperback by visiting their website.