Virgin Media Implements Closed-Loop System for Internal Paper Use

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The Virgin group of companies is known to be a leader in sustainability efforts. Now its media company announced an initiative that increases its internal paper re-usage. Virgin Media is working with its stationary supplier, Banner (one of the largest distributors of copier paper in the UK) to reduce its use of virgin paper using a ‘closed-loop’ system. Here is how they manage their entire paper cycle.

“Last year, we used around 11,800 tonnes of paper for internal and external use, which is roughly the same weight as 2,000 elephants. Because of this, we’re always looking for ways to improve the environmental credentials of the paper we use, which is why the paper we use for external use is sourced from a responsibly managed forest.

We recently reviewed how we could improve the sustainability of the paper we use internally and when our stationary supplier Banner approached us with a completely new way of doing things, we jumped at the chance! It’s what people in sustainability call a ‘Closed Loop’ system and it means that for our internal paper use, we’re using the same paper over and over – and over – again.”

Watch this short film to find out how it works.

Per Banner and this study by the Manchester Business School, Banner has been working on the whole closed-loop paper use process since 2007, at first with government agencies in the UK. With this system, they have devised an innovative solution to manage confidential paper waste and bring it back into mainstream use.

How the Closed-Loop Paper Recycling System Works

  • If  the waste paper is confidential it is shredded securely and data tagged and tracked through the process enabling return back to the primary user.
  • The waste material is baled and transported to a specialist mill partner to be turned into pulp.
  • The pulp is washed to remove any contamination then pressed, dried and finally manufactured into Banner 100% Recycled Copier Paper.
  • Any pulp that cannot be recycled into copier paper is used to produce other products such as fertilizer.

Environmental Benefits of the Closed-Loop Paper Recycling Process

  • The paper flow becomes a “closed loop‟ with zero waste.
  • The process is more sustainable than any other previous system as waste paper can be recycled back into recycled paper up to six times in the closed loop process, remaining in the recycling loop for a longer time than other recycled products that waste paper is turned into (e.g. tissue, cardboard).
  • It also implies the purchase of 100% recycled copier paper, which is now mandated by government purchasing regulations.

Economic or Business Benefits of the Closed-Loop Paper Recycling Process

  • It provides a solution to the confidential paper waste problem by shredding it on-site and selling it back to a government agency or a business like Virgin Media. The shredded waste is securely baled and tagged with management information off-site and transported to a recycled paper mill where the trucks return with closed-loop paper produced from the previous batch.
  • Turning the organization’s waste into a recycled paper product that is re-sold to the same organization allows that paper to be bought at a lower price, since in effect the organization has subsidised the cost of producing that product by providing the raw material needed.
  • This reduces the number of third parties in the system, and therefore reduces the cost for the Banner and the client.

This system or “business ecology” as I would like to call it, is helping not only the businesses it serves to reduce its paper-use-impact, but has also “allowed the supplier to be more than just a supplier of paper, and generated innovation in the supplier organization”. An initiative that has triggered a positive feedback loop and outlook.