Editorial: Recycling Charges

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The United Kingdom's environment minister doesn't care much for direct marketing. Michael Meacher wants the 13 percent recycling rate for direct mail increased to 70 percent as quickly as possible -- and he wants mailers to foot the bill, the Financial Times reported last week. Granted, the UK has one of the world's lowest recycling rates: 12 percent. Most European countries recycle more than twice that, while the United States is expected to reach 35 percent by 2005, according to the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive.

By 2016, European Union law will require the UK to reach a recycling rate of 50 percent or face annual fines of nearly $290 million. As for recycling the mail? "We're not [setting] the price," Meacher told the Times. "We're saying [to the mailers] you've got to come to some arrangement with the local authorities." Obviously, the UK's Direct Marketing Association isn't keen to the notion. Isn't it asking a bit much to pay to have the mail delivered and then to pay to have it taken away?

Good thing there's plenty of landfill space here in the land of excess. Heck, New York City even stopped recycling glass and plastic bottles to save money, though it will resume plastic recycling this summer and glass recycling in 2004. The American Forest & Paper Association said recycling for Standard mail paper stands at 22 percent. However, a study by the Environmental Defense nonprofit group shows there's room for improvement. Of 42 major catalogers surveyed last fall, only six use significant amounts of recycled paper and most don't use any. A viral marketing effort helped spread the word, and more than 22,000 e-mails were sent urging catalogers to change their wasteful ways.

The Toy Store

I remember my first visit to Manhattan's famed FAO Schwarz store shortly after moving to New York nearly 10 years ago. It's something everyone -- young and old -- should experience. The good news is that despite filing for Chapter 11 last week, FAO Inc. has no intention of closing its flagship store, nor will it suspend its catalog or Net operations. With The Right Start and Zany Brainy, FAO diluted its brand, and consumers didn't know what to expect. As Kmart has found, it's tough to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world. But there should be room for a magical toy store somewhere.

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