About PNEB » Our History
Public attitude polls in the late 1980s and early 1990s were for the first time revealling that Australians were regarding the environment as a major public issue. In fact, a public attitude poll in 1990 showed that 73% of Australians believed the environment to be the most important public issue which placed it ahead of education, jobs and the economy. Seventy per cent of newsprint used in Australia is produced in paper mills in Albury NSW, and Boyer, Tasmania. In 1990, these mills were owned by Australian Newsprint Mills which was then owned equally by major newspaper publisher News Limited and by New Zealand's newsprint manufacturer, Fletcher Challenge Limited (now Norske Skog).
At this time the only significant domestic market for re-use of old newspapers was the cardboard manufacturing industry which used the paper to supplement its supplies of wood fibre.
News Limited and Fletcher Challenge, as joint owners of Australian Newsprint Mills, decided to invest in a plant to recycle recovered old newspapers. The plant was built in Albury due to it being located roughly half way between the two biggest population centres of Sydney and Melbourne. By the time it was fully operational as a world-class de-inking operation in 1995, the partners had invested $135 million.
For the publishers, having de-inked fibre from recovered newspapers (and magazines) in their newsprint was a completely unknown quantity, raising questions of reduction in strength, colour and opacity. But it made environmental sense. The Australian community, stimulated by the Federal Government's Industry Commission's 1990 national inquiry into recycling with forums in each State capital, was starting to see that recycling could be more comprehensive than the old Boy Scout bottle drives and suburban aluminium can drop off points.
Also in 1990, News Limited had garnered wide publishing industry support for the creation of a new body to be called the Publishers National Environment Bureau (PNEB), bringing together the major companies in Australia's publishing industry to support, encourage and promote the recovery and reuse of old newspapers.
To underwrite the viability of newspaper recycling, publishers agreed to long term contracts for newsprint containing recycled fibre, subject to normal cost and quality issues. With the huge capital outlay undertaken, the newsprint manufacturer and the publishers had to create a guaranteed flow of recovered newspapers.
1. The manufacturer setting up a company called Kerbside Papers to stand in the market at fixed prices and offer long-term contracts to Local Councils and collectors for recovered newspaper
2. The publishers, through the PNEB, creating an Interim Support Fund. The publishers contributed $2million a year for the three years leading up to the commissioning of the de-inking plant to support initiatives that expanded and underpinned the recovery and re-use of newspapers.
This $6million was made available to any undertaking or project endorsed by the Commonwealth and State environmental agencies and went to Local Government, State Governments, researchers and private firms. Today, over 100 projects have been supported with PNEB funding, including for example the use of old newspaper to produce fibre for home insulation.
The publishers also encouraged community involvement in kerbside recycling by making available to the Commonwealth and State Governments $1million worth of advertising space free each year to promote newspaper recycling and by spending $100,000 each year producing and supplying education materials on recycling to schools and Local Councils throughout Australia. These initiatives still continue today.
The result of this unique and ongoing partnership and its voluntary Plans under the Environment Protection and Heritage Council's precursor, the Australian New Zealand Environment Conservation Council, has been to improve newspaper recycling rates from 28 per cent in 1990 to nearly 80% twenty years later.