Hello book industry ... are you concerned with the environment?

This is probably one of the strangest articles I've ever written, because it pertains to me communicating with a bunch of people and finding out hardly any information. The bad part, however, is the lack of cooperation bodes badly not just for the few individuals I contacted, but the entire book industry.

In June, I attended the Los Angeles Book Expo, my second BEA in as many years. I had a great time, met tons of interesting people, including Rick Pitino, Mario Lopez and others I've seemingly already forgotten. On Sunday, my last day there, I tried to figure out just how much I could bring back to Baltimore. I collected books and bags specifically for my girlfriend, who is a kindergarten teacher at an inner city charter school. I also found books and other nicknacks for random people, but I slowly started to realize I had too much stuff. I flipped through a few a handful of pamphlets and knew that even though it wouldn't take up too much space, I had to get rid of something.

I looked around on the showroom floor for recycling bins labeled paper and/or cardboard. Within the LA Convention Center, there were paper/plastic/aluminum bins all over the place, so it seemed reasonable to find paper bins too. However, I couldn't find a single one.

I started asking various individuals manning booths within the convention center. First, I spoke with a lady from the Los Angeles Convention Visitors Bureau. She recommended that I speak with someone with the convention center. Near the front of the south entrance, I found Audrey Johnson manning a convention center booth. She told me that Freeman Services was in charge of the waste disposal and recycling for the center, and she pointed me toward the company's booth.

Before checking with Freeman, I thought maybe someone at the main BookExpo info booth would be able to help. There were six individuals inside the booth, and when I arrived, only one was helping a customer. Yet I stood there for almost five minutes before anyone even acknowledged my existence. Oh, that's right, I was still wearing an invisibility cloak. After I asked about paper recycling, a lady mentioned that I should ask the convention center people ... and two other individuals manning the booth rolled their eyes at me.

Continuing on my journey, there were a couple of guys at the Freeman booth, all of whom seemed pretty busy. I asked them if they knew how I was supposed to recycle paper and cardboard. The man I spoke with said that Freeman has a variety of environmentally friendly operations (which I later found outlined on Freeman's website).

So why didn't the Book Expo have these things? The Freeman rep told me that organizations have to request them.

He sent me to a room upstairs to the office of Reed Exhibitions, who hands the Book Expo on a yearly basis. I eventually spoke with Michael Kisken, the director of operations. He didn't have much to say, except that he placed the responsibility on the onus of the Convention Center. When I mentioned to him what Freeman Services told me, he basically ignored the question and said he would find answers for me, and that I could contact him later.

I emailed Kisken three weeks later to see what new information he had found. He emailed me a Word document that contained the Green initiatives of the L.A. Convention Center.

I'm not completely sure who to blame here, but everyone involved appeared to be good at passing it around to others. Since Freeman Services offers a variety of green options, I'm guessing that neither the Book Expo nor Reed requested these items. Then again, the Convention Center, which constantly boasts on its sign outside that "We Proudly Recycle," should bear some of the liability for not recommending additional recycling possibilities.

In 2009, I'd like to see, at the very least, a couple of paper/cardboard recycling bins that patrons could utilize. I agree that it's somewhat detrimental to have to have paper waste when the majority of exhibitors are giving away just that. But hey, if people are going to shove pamphlets, brochures, etc., into my hands, they surely cannot expect every single person who receives one to take action on it. It's somewhat rude to immediately hand it back, although if there isn't a viable method to recycle next year, we might have to do just that.

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Comments

Your article hit the nail on the head. Certainly there was poor preparation and execution of recycling and Expo should make every effort to correct this problem for next year. The need to recycl is agreed to by all. It is not a political issue and all organizations, conventions and indivuals should do more than make an effort to recycle but must succeed in accomplishing it at all costs.

Way to go, Ben! The absence of paper recycling bins at Book Expo surprised me, as well. In July, I went to Comic Con in San Diego. Again, I got bombarded by paper (although only a fraction of the Book Expo paperload). But I found a few paper recycling bins in the corridors there.