RHS turns to YM for paper wrap solution

The Royal Horticultural Society will become the first large publisher to do away with polywrap entirely when it switches to paper wrapping with the March issue of its flagship magazine.

Print and production services manager Diana Levy said the gardening charity had been investigating potential alternatives to polywrap for The Garden for the best part of a year.

The RHS has just under 500,000 members, of which around 450,000 receive the monthly magazine. The Garden has a 276x210mm format. Pagination, including covers, can range from 92pp to 156pp depending on the season.

“We used to get occasional complaints from members about polywrap, but after Blue Planet II aired there was an increase. Our members felt passionate about it and we knew it was something we had to address,” said Levy.  

The RHS tested starch-based film last spring, but Levy said the trial was not particularly successful, and she had concerns about whether bioplastic would be a long-term solution.

“Sustainability is important across everything we do as a society, and we wanted the majority of members to be able to recycle our wrap easily – we can’t assume they all have compost heaps or compost caddies,” she explained.

Levy then turned to YM Group’s Lettershop, which rolled out a new paper wrapping product last summer. Sister site YM Pindar has printed The Garden for a number of years.

Following detailed testing and trialling, including the response to switching to envelopes on two smaller circulation publications, The Orchid Review and The Plantsman, Levy recommended paper wrapping as the best way forward for The Garden to the RHS board, which then gave the go-ahead for the switch.

RHS head of editorial Chris Young said: “We are really proud to be doing this. Our members really want it and as an environmental charity it’s the right thing to do.”

Paper wrapping is more expensive than traditional polywrap, and the move will involve a “substantial investment” by the RHS, Levy said.

“This is a major commitment to sustainability and a lot of thought has gone into it. I’m convinced more magazines will look at paper wrapping, and I would love it if in a few months’ time we are seen as having led the way. As far as I know we’re the first major magazine to do this at this scale,” she stated.

“Lettershop have been incredibly helpful and Pindar has been an exceptionally good partner on the print side, so I’m pleased to extend this relationship across the YM Group.”

The society will do away with the 4pp carrier sheet that currently goes out with the magazine as a result of the move, and is in the process of finalising what will appear on the outside of the wrap, which is printed onto a specially-selected 65gsm paper. It is likely to include an image of the front cover on one side and mailing information and a recycling message on the seal side. In the future it could also look at other options, such as printing on the inside of the wrap or using some of the space as a commercial option.

YM Lettershop can print paper wrap using a combination of conventional web offset printing and variable digital printing using its Kodak Prosper high-speed inkjet web. The paper wrapping itself is carried out on modified CMC machines.

YM group sales director Norman Revill said: “The RHS has been very, very thorough in its due diligence and this project has involved a tremendous amount of work from the teams at Lettershop and at Pindar, and of course the RHS.

“We’re really excited about it and it’s all systems go. This is going to make a lot of people sit up and think about what they’re doing. It’s a really positive step forward for the group and I’m delighted.”

The March issue will be mailed at the end of next month.