The Comic Book Recycling Question

This post would have been more appropriate during last weeks Earth Week (or more appropriately on Earth Day), but after reading Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina Special #4 I have to ask,  why aren’t comics printed on recycled paper?

Searching the 4 major publishers I found no mention of recycling programs anywhere on their websites or anything they do for the environment.  To put it in even more perspective, and pointed out by the Ex Machina’s villain:

But comics are virgin paper going into virgin hands that tuck them away into poisonous plastic.  Forever.

And this brings up a major point, that on top of the paper we consume in the book itself, we also have the mylar bags to protect them, coated card board backing, and boxes to hold them all in.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this issue as Pop Syndicate’s Isaac Magana has also recently written on the subject.  Currently, unsold issues are either thrown out by stores or sit as back issues tucked away.  Here’s some interesting thoughts on the subject:

  • Can comics be recycled? – I don’t know the answer but don’t see why not at least some can.  They might not be as durable as the current format but, the possible issue of issues crumbling actually helps collectors in the long term.
  • Crumbling Comics is Good for Collectors – If recycled comics are less durable, over time, there will be less back issues available on the market increasing the value of older issues on the secondary market and giving a nice boost to the collector side of the hobby.
  • Let retailers return unsold issues! – Years ago, retailers could return unsold issues by ripping off the covers.  Allow retailers to do this again and recycle the issues into new comics or offer recycling programs to turn old issues into other products with some sort of incentive program.  Recycling potentially will lower costs of materials, lowering the recent hurt of increased cover costs.  Again, less overprints in the market, the higher the back issue values for collectors.
  • Used Graphic Novels Have Potential – Companies like Gamestop and FYE  have learned, there’s a hell of a market for used items like video games, movies, books, and music.  Why not purchase “used” graphic novels for low costs and resell them at a cheaper price than “new” product?  The mark up can be fantastic, allowing a more profitable margin for the ever shrinking specialty market.
  • Green Energy – Pledge to power your printing plants, offices, etc., with as much green power as possible.  Advertise this, people will eat it up.
  • Color Printing – Do I even want to know what chemicals are in the printing ink itself?
  • Encourage Green Habits for Customers – We’re not all lucky enough to have a shop around the corner, but give a way for individuals to get their weekly comics in the least impactful way possible.  Advertising mass transit options, offering recycled paper bags, plastic bag recycling (offer customers $), are simple and easy ways to make an impact as retailers.

I will put out fealers to the 4 major publishers, Dark Horse, DC, Image, and Marvel, to see if I can get any response at all to this issue.


  • good questions about recycling.

    comics are printed on “coated groundwood” on the cover and regular groundwood on the non glossy pages.

    Ground wood is the inexpensive paper used in magazines, mass market paper backs, and news print. Any paper that tn=ans over time is groundwood.

    Comics are very recyclable, a lot of them are mixed with corrugated cardboard and recovered bookstock and made into paper towels.

    Brett Bringardner
    founder (beta)