Case Binding of Books - Embodied Energy
With books becoming more and more digitized, the art of bookbinding is slowly disappearing. Personally, I enjoy the feel of the physical book and the aesthetics of cover designs which are likely to be eliminated with digitalization. However, I must reluctantly admit that there are far greater issues than that of aesthetics and feel, namely, rising energy costs and waste. We must start thinking a lot more in terms of sustainability as waste caused by humans rises. People do not realize just how much energy and material is used to create simple objects such as books. While I will not look deeply within the costs of digital book readers, I will delve into the energy required to bind books. In particular, I will focus on only case bound books, a “species” most likely to become extinct first as they are being outsold by digital readers (“Hard Cover Books Endangered To Be Extinct”). The energy required includes the raw materials, the processes and manufacturing. I will go into the re-use and recycling of books to try and address the future of books and how energy is both saved and used in this process. The digital age is growing at a rapid pace with books slowly dying out. Through the understanding and realization of just how much and how many different kinds of energies are used within production, perhaps better decisions can be made that are more sustainable to create a future where books may continue to thrive.
Case binding begins with thread sewing. This is when the printed signatures, a group of multiple pages, are gathered and sewn together (“Case Binding”). The sewing can be done both by hand and by machine. The hand-sewn method is most definitely less efficient but I assume it uses less wasteful energy as any human motion consists of only mechanical energy, though there is the chemical energy required to turn food into energy for humans (“What is Energy?”). A quick online search of a commercial book sewing machine gives one example that is said to generate 1.6 kW in the main motor (“SX460B Book Sewing Machine”). After the sewing, the book block is sent to a trimmer which will cut all the pages into a uniform size. One trimmer for example, can cut 7-25 times a minute while using 4 kW ("QS100/100A/100B Three Knives Book Trimmer"). A calculation using an electrical energy cost calculator with 1 kWh being approximately $0.12, the national average in 2011, shows that the use of both the sewing machine and the trimmer would cost around $15 to leave on every 24 hours (“Electrical Energy Cost Calculator”). Put in other terms, this is 16,560,000J. This is literally a million times more energy than it would take for a human to thread sew a book (Watson). Of course, with the sewing speed being 85 cycles per minute, many will probably disregard the high use of energy and find this trade off very much worth the energy costs.
After the thread sewing is the preparation of the spine of the book. This step includes “rounding” where the back is given a convex shape and “backing” where the edges of the spine are bent outwards (“Case Binding”). This creates a wider spine so there are shoulders for the front and back covers to rest on. Glue or adhesive will also be applied at this stage and a loosely woven cloth is attached to the spine (PrintSpeak). The energy embodied within the rounding and backing is essentially all mechanical energy; it is the act of pressing and pounding the spine. A machine can do this with the use of electrical energy, rounding about 40 books a minute and using 0.75 kH (“Book Back Rounding/press Machine”).
The final step of case binding a book is the actual application of the case onto the book called “casing-in” (“Case Binding”). Before it is cased in, the book undergoes a process called “nipping” where the book is compressed to force out excess air. Then, the end papers of the book are coated with adhesive and the case is applied. This step takes little to no more energy than the last step as it is again just the act of compression both to release air and to apply the cover. Casing-in machines also generate about 1.5 kW of power ("RGM-210SKJ Full-automatic Casing-in Machine").
Added up, the power used for the process of creating books is about 8 Kilowatts. This is honestly not that much power or energy and for the efficiency and speed created, it would probably be best to continue the use of machines. However, this is without the consideration of any of the raw material production and acquisition costs which gives an illusion of being more energy friendly. Some raw materials involved are the needle and thread used to sew, the production of the case, and even the book jacket. Paper is also clearly a material in books, but since we focused on book-binding, we are not addressing the production of the interior paper pages, only that of the dust jacket. To get a true idea of embodied energy, one must account for all of these within the process of case binding.
In order to create a sewing needle, steel is needed; it is straightened, cut, and stamped (Wulfert). Often, these needles are plated with platinum or titanium alloy. These elements may also be used to build some of the machinery used during the binding process. Platinum is freely occurring and can be found in deposits where gold or nickel is present (“The Element Platinum”). However, it is often not in its pure form so platinum must be refined by smelting to separate the platinum from other materials (Carey). Titanium is abundant in the Earth’s crust and found in rutile, ilmenite, and sphene and must similarly be heated in order for the element to be extracted from the ore (Romanowski). This pure Titanium can contain as much as 745 MJ/kg of embodied energy(Hammond and Craig). Iron is even more abundant in the crust and found in hematite and magnetite (“The Element Iron”). After collection, iron is taken to a blast furnace where it is headed to about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is blasted by streams of oxygen which causes the reaction needed to create steel (“How Iron & Steel Are Made”). The Inventory of Carbon and Energy states that Iron carries approximately 24.62 MJ/kg (Hammond and Craig). This process as well as the other processes for metal extraction uses an insane amount of thermal energy. Steel is estimated to have an embodied energy of 24.40 MJ/kg (Hammond and Craig). Blast furnaces produce a lot of energy, but at the cost of also expelling pollutants such as carbon monoxide and sulfur oxides (Beychok). In addition to producing pollutants, the fossil fuels used in combustion are not renewable and a problem will arise as these resources are slowly diminished. Compared to this process, the rest of the needle-making energy required is negligible; it ranges from grinding steel wire to a point to stamping it with a hole which is more mechanical and electrical energy.
The linen thread begins with the flax plant. Flax is harvested when it is young and then dried requiring the thermal energy of the sun. After drying, the fibers of the plant are separated from the stalk by using water or chemicals. The few chemicals, if any, that are used to assist in rotting the plant are made by oxidizing sucrose using nitric acid to create oxalic acid (Merritt). The process of oxidizing requires some chemical energy. The cloth which wraps around the cardboard of the case is very similar to that of a thread because cloth covers are also often made of linen. The weaving and spinning of linen is often done by hand. The majority of energies that have been put into use for actual manufacturing are human power or basic mechanical energy. Only in the actual creation or acquisition of material are other types of energy such as chemical or thermal energy used.
The next major component of the cover is the board used to give the thickness and protection to the cover. The board can be made of many different materials but one specific kind is chipboard which consists of wood chips and shavings. These chips are sprayed by resin in order to bind the particles. This mixture is then compressed into the final product. Resins each have their own embodied chemical energies involving polymers and chemicals.
Binding agents such as the resin used to hold together the chipboard are very important as they will hold the entire book together and to create an appropriate shape and cover. Although glues were originally made from animal parts, more modern book binding adhesives have been synthetic hot-melt adhesives that stem from ethylene copolymers (Petrie). As one can probably guess, hot-melts involve thermal energy to create the soft adhesive for application. The ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer is probably the most common of hot-melts as it is both very flexible and strong; it is similar to rubber (Horie and De Witte). Copolymers are formed through the process of copolymerization; this process chemically forms polymer chains between ethylene and vinyl acetate. Through the linking of molecules, a copolymer is formed; this transformation and chemical reaction requires chemical energy. Copolymerization is complex and involves other elements and processes; it gets very technical and more difficult to understand. I found it hard to discover or quantify what energies were involved within these chemical processes.
The dust jacket is a piece of paper that goes over a book’s cover, a piece that is vital to a book’s identity. The paper making process begins with the pulping of wood; one method called thermomechanical pulping uses rotating disks, high temperature, and pressure to create strong pulp. This process is a combination of mechanical and thermal energy and involves steaming the wood chips prior to being pulped which actually saves energy as opposed to other processes (“Wood Pulp”). However, it should be noted that pulp can also be made from recycled material which will save energy in the form of trees and basic raw materials. But overall, the amount of pollution created is still major, so people have been researching more energy efficient sustainable biological pulping which uses a species of fungi that are capable of doing similar work (“Wood Pulp”). After the pulping, the paper is ready for screening and drying for the final product, requiring more thermal energy. Paper carries about 68 MJ/kg of embodied energy (Hammond and Craig).
What people may not realize is that the extraction of basic elements and materials needed for bookbinding are the most energy intensive and costly. According to the economic input-output life cycle assessment tool, fiber, yarn, and thread mills expend about 4.16 TJ of energy for every one million dollars. The power and generation is another 7.03 TJ. Paper mills on the other hand expend 7.16 TJ. Pulp mills exceed all of these values at a colossal 46.5 TJ of energy. The plastics and resin manufacturing plants come in at 12.3 TJ (“EIO-LCA”). To put all of this in perspective, the cumulative amounts of these energies exceed that of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima (United States. Department of Energy). Iron and steel mills also consume a large chunk of energy, 30.1 TJ, but I assume that only a very small portion of this will go towards the manufacturing of sewing needles (“EIO-LCA”). These industries alone consume a monstrous amount of energy. The actual processes and manufacturing of secondary raw materials such as the cover take much less energy.
The simple act of creating materials is not enough either. Transportation is an issue that must be accounted for; and with the use of trucking, the energies involved will consist of a lot more fossil fuels. An approximate estimate of the trucking energies used for the transportation of material from fiber mills, paper mills, and resin manufacturers is about 1.148 TJ for every one million dollars (“EIO-LCA”). Of course, there is still the energy that is used for the transportation of the actual book products to other parts of the country for about another .129 TJ. This energy cost is a lot less than each specific manufacturing plant, but it should also be noted that 99% of this energy is petroleum based fuel (“EIO-LCA”).
Another vital part in saving energy is the re-use and sustainability of books. This is to preserve the nature of books and make sure that no bibliographic elements are lost (Foot and Akers). As school students, we can all attest to the fact that books take a lot of different kinds of beatings. For each kind of damage, there are different kinds of repairs. The worst that can happen to a book is the destruction of the actual boards will result in the need of an entirely new case to be made (Banister). This all adds a small amount of energy in order to restore old books, but this is a lot less energy than the production of an entirely new book.
Whereas some may want books to last forever, another option is the recycling of books. This is very simple because regardless of condition, for the most part, books can still be shared and enjoyed by others. Recycling books is easy and there are many used bookstores around the world. Books can also simply be recycled similar to other paper products. Tyson Miller, reports that about 1.1 million tons of paper were consumed by the publishing industry in 2002 (“Recycling Books, Reusing Books”). The Green Press Initiative estimates that only 5% of paper used in books is made from recycled fiber. It is also estimated that an increase to just 30 percent in 6 years would result in a saving of over “4.9 million trees, 524 million pounds of greenhouse gases, 2 billion gallons of water, 388,137 pounds of hazardous air pollutants” (“Recycling Books, Reusing Books”). Recycling is one of the key steps in energy saving as it will eliminate the costly actions of raw material acquisition.
Honestly, I do fear for the future of books. Since 1987, over 75% of binderies have been closed (Hart 29). But I cannot see the extinction of books either. With the major chemical and thermal energies used in acquisition and transportation of basic raw materials, recycling is one of the strongest ways to fight back. I wonder how far off we are from a world that can produce material using over 50% recycled material. As one finishes a book, it is recycled and used to manufacture a new book. But in the case of hardbacks, each case would have to be individually reproduced. From an energy standpoint, I can see how simply downloading a new ebook can save literally tons of energy rather than buying a single book. Although I have not researched electronic readers, the materials and embodied energy used in creation must be just as costly, if not more costly. Here, we are left at an imbalance where it would obviously be most cost and energy efficient if one or the other were eliminated: books or electronic readers. With the way society is pointed now, I can say that most probably prefer the elimination of the former. Little can be done to change the societal mindset; some kind of campaign to promote the recycling of books may help. I may be obviously biased towards the survival of books, but I am very hopeful for the future. After enacting some of these ideas and pushing for better recycling, perhaps we can get a better grasp of how books will fare.
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DES 40A, Professor Christina Cogdell
Book Binding – Associated Wastes and Emissions
March 13, 2013
Book Binding: A Story of Pollution and Waste (Wastes and Emissions)
Written documentation began nearly 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt, in the forms of clay tablets and papyrus scrolls.   Over time, various techniques and materials were developed to transmit written language. The format that we recognize as a traditional book was developed within the last 600 years, as a product of the printing press.   Throughout the decades since then, book manufacturing has become significantly easier – fewer materials are needed, printing takes less time, and greater volumes can be produced. Book production seems like it would be a fairly simple process: gather the materials, print words on paper, bind the pages together, and voila! you have a book. But in reality, the manufacturing process is more complicated. First, pages must be reviewed, photographed, scanned, and test printed before they can be printed for copy. Once the pages are printed, they are gathered into groups, called signatures. Next, these signatures must be collated, and then bound together with wire or linen thread, which is sometimes coated with glue to hold the stitching together. Front and back end papers are added, which are later glued to the inside cover of hardbound books. Hard covers are made from chipboard, covered by cloth, leather, or paper. A dust jacket can be used to protect the finished book as well.  This process shows that the list of materials that are involved in the publication of books is lengthy. Each material used in production involves wastes, both in the processing of the raw materials and in the actual manufacturing. This paper will focus specifically on the wastes and emissions associated with the materials involved in bookbinding, as well as those associated with the process itself, including water waste, chemical emissions, and paper products.
The production of paper involves massive amounts of water, most of which ends up as polluted water waste. The wastewater from paper production plants can be heavily polluted with solids, alcohols, inks, nutrients, transition metal compounds, inorganic materials, and dissolved organic matters. All of these pollutants can cause massive damage to the environment. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen often cause or worsen the process of eutrophication in fresh water lakes and rivers, which can destroy wildlife habitats. Dissolved organic matter can drastically alter fresh water habitats, potentially wiping out all living species dependent on the water source. Inks and dyes may be carcinogenic if incinerated, and can also seep into the groundwater. Though the most intense, waste water is not the only pollution involved in paper production.
Paper production also involves air pollution. Many chemicals, including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide, are all emitted during paper manufacturing. These can have terrible environmental effects. Nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are both major contributors in the make up of acid rain. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is responsible for climate change and global warming. Even after paper has been produced, still more waste is accrued.
Once manufactured, paper products go through additional waste-producing processes. As part of the book binding process, signatures, end papers, cover pages, dust jackets, etc, need to be cut down to size. Paper waste makes up nearly 40%, or 71.6 million tons, of the total waste in the United States. Though book binding plays only a very small role in this waste, “we still have between four percent and seven percent trim-off waste in the bindery. Millions of dollars in paper are wasted… There's a lot of signature-count waste.” Paper recycling helps eliminate some of this waste, but recycled paper still has to be processed, using and polluting additional water with even more toxic chemicals.
The largest wastes involved in leather production are animal bi-products, most of which are processed and disposed of in wastewater. Livestock is needed to produce leather, with all of the associated wastes of raising cattle, but in addition, there are many chemicals used in the tanning process, as well as lots of water waste. Chromium, mercury, and formic acid are the primary chemicals used during tanning, each with varying levels of environmental harm. In addition, the tanning process requires huge amounts of water. “One ton of hide or skin generally leads to the production of 20 to 80 m3 of wastewater including chromium levels of 100–400 mg/L, sulfide levels of 200–800 mg/L and high levels of fat and other solid wastes, as well as notable pathogen contamination.” Up to 70% of the wet weight of the hides becomes solid waste during production, leaving massive amounts of unusable polluted waste. Though the greatest quantity of leather waste bi-product is polluted water waste, leather production also includes emissions that pollute the air.
Leather manufacturing has many steps, each of which use chemicals that have serious emissions. Tanning involves air pollution from the transformation process. Hydrogen sulfide is used to dehair the animal skin early on, ammonia is used during the deliming process, and various solvent vapors are released throughout the procedure. In addition, many leather producers do not properly process and dispose of the chemical wastes created during manufacturing.
III.) Cotton and Linen
Cotton production relies heavily on pesticides and other chemicals, as well as requiring large amounts of water. Cotton is particularly vulnerable to pests, which are kept under control using vast amounts of chemicals. 25% of the world’s insecticides are using during cotton production. Cotton growers also use large amounts of fertilizer in order to get more profitable yields. “In processes like washing, de-sizing, bleaching, rinsing, dyeing, printing, coating and finishing” the cotton, huge amounts of water are used. 70% of the water used by the textile industry is involved in the processing of wet textile.
Linen has far fewer emissions involved in production, but still requires chemical processing. Linen is made from flax, which is significantly easier to grow than cotton. Flax plants need much less chemical fertilizer, and are not particularly prone to pests, so need less in the way of pesticides. In order to create linen cloth, flax fibers must first be separated from the woody flax stalk, a process called retting that uses either water or chemicals. Though water can be used, in industrial settings, most manufacturers use chemicals instead. The plants are placed in a solution of either alkali or oxalic acid, then pressurized and boiled. Alkali is a base, while oxalic acid is obviously acidic, so both need to be neutralized before they can be safely disposed of, or else there is a risk of environmental damage. Oxalic acid is also toxic, and can be deadly, as it has been shown to cause kidney failure.
IV.) Synthetic Dyes
The synthetic dyes used to color textiles are produced using chemicals that are often toxic, carcinogenic, and even potentially explosive. Many dyes incorporate the highly flammable and deadly carcinogenic chemical anililine. Other harmful chemicals involved in the dying process include dioxin, “a carcinogen and possible hormone disrupter,” “toxic heavy metals like chrome, copper, and zinc, known carcinogens,” and formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen. Industrial dying processes use solutions of dyes dissolved in water, which fabrics are then dipped into. After these dye solutions are used, they are most often dumped into rivers, because dumping is far cheaper than paying for the waste water to be processed correctly or reused by the processing plant. Every year, millions of tons of dye effluent are dumped into rivers and lakes without proper treatment. Even when companies do comply with the laws in regards to waste water treatment, there are still significant amounts of chemicals left in the water, which can then legally be released into local water sources. The wastewater additionally often includes organic materials like starch, which, when they decompose, can deoxygenate bodies of water, killing the life forms that depend on them.
V.) Polyvinyl Acetate
Polyvinyl acetate itself is a non-toxic, non-acidic polymer; however, vinyl acetate, from which polyvinyl acetate is made, is a harmful and possibly carcinogenic chemical. The method through which vinyl acetate becomes polyvinyl acetate uses water, leaving wastewater that is contaminated with the toxic chemicals. 
VI.) Failures of the Research Process
I had a really hard time finding information about the wastes associated with the actual process of binding books. I found plenty of information about the many ways in which books can be bound, but most of the sources I was able to find didn’t even mention waste products, or if they were mentioned at all it was very briefly and without detail. I would assume that in most steps, there would be excesses of materials, like thread, cloth, and various papers, that would be wasted as part of the production and binding process. However, this is only an assumption, as I was unable to find definitive research information about it. Interestingly enough, I did find a scholarly article that discussed this lack of adequate documentation and studies in terms of the wastes bi-products of bookbinding. In the article, there was discussion of how nearly all of the data we have about bookbinding is out of date, and newer practices may be in use, but have not been studied and reported on yet.
I also had difficulty finding out about the processes used to make polyvinyl acetate and chipboard. I found a couple diagrams of polyvinyl acetate molecules, but I don’t have a firm enough grasp on chemistry to be able to make much sense of what the molecular structures mean in terms of composition or how they would be formed. For chipboard, I could only find vague descriptions, without much concrete discussion of the manufacturing process, so was unable to determine what chemical wastes and emissions would come out of the production.
Book production involves massive amounts of waste and emissions. There are incredible quantities of raw materials that go into producing books, as well as phenomenal amounts of energy. In an age when millions of books are now available in digital copies, and in a society where access to these resources is commonplace, it is easy to ignore the fact that book manufacturing is still an enormous industry. Our over-consumption economy encourages consumers to buy, buy, buy, with no regard for the monumental environmental costs associated with the production of the goods being purchased. If we take a step back and think about all of the time, energy, and resources that form the back-story of the products we buy, we can be better informed and more conscious of our environmental effects.
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