London’s freesheets are now engaged in rubbishing each other over the litter they have been indirectly creating in the city.
It started with Associated Newspapers, owner of the London Lite freesheet, flaying arch rival News International for being “totally irresponsible” in increasing the print run of its rival thelondonpaper by 100,000 copies. Associated claimed that the increase was unnecessary as many of the extra copies were discarded at a time when London boroughs were putting pressure on both companies to limit rubbish, according to report in the Media Guardian.
“thelondonpaper has been totally irresponsible in increasing its print run by 100,000 when it is clear that many of the existing free papers are being dumped on the streets, and London boroughs are calling for both newspaper groups to resolve the litter problem caused,” the company said in a statement.
News International hit back claiming that the firm was “lashing out” at it in response to a sales drop at the Evening Standard and that its criticism of thelondonpaper was an attack on free papers in general. News International said the attacks on it showed that Associated was “rattled” by the success of thelondonpaper, which recorded a January circulation figure of 436,435 – a rise of 6.19 per cent on December – compared to 400,997 for London Lite, which was up just 0.07 per cent.
Associated also went on the offensive over the differences between thelondonpaper and the Evening Standard. “It is absurd for thelondonpaper to compare itself with the Evening Standard, just as it would be if it tried to compare itself to any of the other quality paid-for newspapers,” the company said. “It is like comparing a junk snack with a gourmet meal.”
“Clearly the rattled Standard is lashing out at us in response to its 28 per cent year-on-year sales drop, and the fact that twice as many Londoners now pick up thelondonpaper as buy their ailing product,” a News International spokeswoman said. “What does this suggest about the long-term future of Lite? Putting out 400,000 copies a day of a spoiler product the company clearly does not believe in is truly irresponsible.”
The battle took this dirty turn after Westminster City Council last month warned it could restrict distribution of thelondonpaper and London Lite papers, which it claimed caused an extra three tones of waste in the borough every day. The council said it would not look to ban the paper across the entire borough but would initially focus on the most affected areas, the Press Gazette had reported. Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, local authorities can ban free literature if the area is being polluted.
A spokeswoman for News International said: “We have been working together with Westminster Council since the launch of thelondonpaper and are now in further negotiations with them to resolve their current issues.” A spokeswoman for Associated Newspapers said: “Associated Newspapers are currently in negotiations with Westminster City Council regarding the distribution of London Lite and waste collection in the Westminster area.”
The council estimated that a quarter of all waste in the West End was made up of free newspapers and ultimately ended up in the landfill, rather than being recycled, as it was being mixed with street rubbish. After the papers launched in August last year, the council — which oversees most of Central London — increased the number of recycling bins to 131, but to cope with the sheer volume of waste it estimates it would need an extra 300 bins at a cost of £500,000 in the first two years.