Recycling and the print media: the breaking point is now
Quebecers are aware of the challenges that have faced print media for some time now. According to Ministère de la Culture figures, one weekly in four has permanently stopped its presses since 2010… and this situation is going to get much worse unless the government amends the Environmental Quality Act this year to give newspapers the same cultural protection as it does to books.
It is urgent because the dailies and weeklies are stuck in a vicious circle due to the obligations to finance newsprint recycling:
• Newsprint media entities are falling in numbers every year.
• The newsprint tonnage they produce is also dropping.
• However, their annual recycling costs are rising dramatically.
• Conclusion: an exploding recycling bill has been imposed on surviving newspapers.
The numbers are telling. 92,000 fewer tonnes of newsprint were produced between 2010 and 2019 (-68%). But the contribution demanded from the media rose by $9 million over the same period (+340%). The per-tonne processing cost went from $23.03 in 2010 to $241.92.
It is true that the Ministry of Finance proposed the beginning of a solution two years ago. Therefore, if this support slightly reduces the financial burden of print media, it does not improve the aberration of the current system and its adverse effects. In addition, it remains a short-term support in the face of a structural problem that has been increasing year by year.
From the beginning, it was inconceivable that we are treating newspapers, beacons of democracy and cultural expression, in the same manner as tin cans and plastic bottles.
The news media contributes directly to our communities’ vitality and their social and democratic life. As a result, they must benefit from a cultural protection analogous to that for books. Otherwise, the compensatory system for newspapers is about to drop the axe on other press organizations.
Since arriving in power, François Legault’s government has shown great sensitivity to the difficult situation the media are facing pursuant to the dramatic drop in advertising revenue that was the foundation of their business model.
The government must now agree with us that the first step is to extricate the newspapers from a system that is financially asphyxiating the print media. This intervention must come as of the next budget; otherwise, more communities will lose their print media.
* RecycleMédias is a private, non-profit organization created in December 2000 with the mission of representing newspapers, which are required to contribute to the residual materials recycling and reclamation efforts in Québec. The organization has 149 members from the following organizations: Québecor Média, Groupe Capitale Médias, Le Devoir, The Gazette, Hebdos Québec, Quebec Community Newspaper Association (QCNA), l’Association des médias écrits communautaires du Québec (AMEQ) and many smaller independent newspapers and groups.