Visit to the Newsprinters Site

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On Wednesday 13th August, I had the pleasure of joining the Sunday Times team on a tour of News UK’s Broxbourne Newsprinters site.  The publications printed by Newsprinters include The Sunday Times, The Times, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and the Financial Times.

The site was huge – covering 40 acres, it is the size of 23 football pitches! It took two years to set up at a cost of US$10 billion. Unlike some other more traditional printing facilities, it is also meticulously clean, light and, most surprisingly perhaps, not too noisy. It was surreal to see hay bale sized reams of paper slowly moving around the space on conveyor belts and stacked to the ceiling in the storage area.

We walked around the plant in our hi vis jackets and saw all the stages of production from the paper being delivered to the finished newspapers being bundled together and strapped ready for distribution. The level of automation was particularly impressive – we watched team members changing plates on the presses and checking the newspaper copies for printing errors, but most of the processes were undertaken by machines. The 12 triple width presses at the site allow one million copies of a 120 page newspaper to be printed every hour. Achieving a quick turnaround time is especially important when considering that stories often break during the night and in the early hours of the morning. Printers also have to be responsive to changes in demand due to popular stories – the birth of the royal baby and Michael Jackson’s death have been two of the biggest ones in recent times – and changes to publications, such as additional supplements or giveaways.

Reducing wastage and maximising recycling are two key priorities. I was horrified to see the amount of paper that could not be used – but happy to see that the site has a 100% recycling policy.

With print facing fierce competition from digital media, newspapers must increasingly justify their existence, so it is great to see that printing is constantly evolving to become more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Thanks to the Sunday Times team and the staff at Broxbourne for their hospitality.