Children's books are the ones that need to be protected the most, Source: Maarit Hohteri / City of Helsinki

Helsinki’s libraries ditch plastic book covers

Helsinki’s libraries ditch plastic book covers

Instead, bio coating will be used in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen

The libraries in the Helmet network (Helsinki Metropolitan Area) will be betting on sustainable alternatives to protect their books. Instead of using plastic coverings and thereby contributing to plastic pollution, from 2021 the institutions will rely on a more sustainable, plant-based alternative, or will not be using any coverings at all.

A plant-based book loves a plant-based covering

The libraries in Helsinki acquired 124 000 books last year alone. This requires an enormous quantity of plastic to be used for their preservation and to delay their wear.

Similar is the situation with the other city libraries in Helsinki’s metropolitan area, like those in the municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. That is why the HelMet network, counting a total of 64 libraries, decided to go green on book coverings and replace plastic with a sustainable alternative, originating from plants.

As of recently, the culture establishments can rely on a high-quality plant-based replacement of plastic, which replicates its protective effect. An additional benefit is that the material is made by Finnish company Pelloplast.

Their bioplastic material consists of a film made of sugar cane ethanol. Only renewable raw materials are used to produce it, while the water-soluble glues it contains do not contain any solvents.

However, existing plastic stocks will be used to protect books, until they are exhausted. Once this is the case, only bioplastic material will be purchased for covering. The transitional period should last no longer than a couple of months.

Furthermore, the libraries are studying if covering books and other items is really necessary to extend their lifetime and to prevent them from turning into waste before their time has come. A pilot project, that has started last March, is still to determine if some items are better left unprotected.

It is believed that materials that quickly become outdated, such as magazines, inexpensive paperbacks and rarely loaned reference books could be left completely uncoated. On the other hand, a protective coat is still needed for children’s books and books in the mobile library.

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