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Publishing company sparks outrage after photo of dumpster outside facility surfaces online: 'Companies need to do a better job'

Dozens of copies appear in the photo.

Photo Credit: iStock

A photo of new books piled in a dumpster circulating online sparked Redditors to express disappointment but not surprise at the wastefulness of the publishing industry. 

The image, posted to the r/anticonsumption subreddit, depicts dozens of discarded copies of a hard-cover textbook titled U.S. Land and Natural Resources Policy.

The book title was certainly not lost on frustrated Redditors, with one writing, "The irony of the title…!" and another replying, "I saw that … hilarious"

Due to careless industry and consumer practices, "more than 16,000 truckloads of books" make their way to landfills each year without anyone ever cracking open the cover, according to research group Words Rated

Not likely to fly off bookstore shelves, reference materials and textbooks can be particularly wasteful to produce, with new additions every few years. These frequent reprints can be costly to both the environment and the students who are required to pay a premium for the latest version. 

As one Redditor commented, "Companies need to do a better job of determining how much of a print run they need instead of wasting materials like this." 

Publishing company's discarded pile of brand new books
Photo Credit: u/tuftedear / Reddit

From start to finish, current book production practices are often reckless, squandering valuable resources.

Paper production is responsible for the loss of up to eight billion trees each year, with about 30 million cut down for textbooks alone. 

"It's a very wasteful industry," one Redditor commented. "I did a tour of a printer and watched quite a few books get chucked off the assembly line for small imperfections."

Smarter printing could save publishers money while reducing the amount of resources wasted. 

In response to increasing pressure, some publishing companies have made responsible improvements to their supply, production, and distribution processes. 

However, as Book Riot noted, the industry still has a long way to go as companies are slow to switch to more sustainable practices like using lighter or recycled paper and providing more transparency throughout the supply chain.

Concerned consumers might consider recycling or donating excess books, as the original Reddit poster suggested. "I grabbed a bunch [of reference books] and donated them to some local colleges," they wrote. "They are recyclable if the hard covers are removed."

Encouraging change within the publishing industry as well as borrowing, donating, and recycling excess books, can reduce the number of wasted materials that make their way to the landfill. 

Until the industry makes major changes, one Redditor perfectly summarized the feeling of seeing the disheartening photo, simply writing, "Oof."

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