Everyone knows the situation where they find themselves in front of a screen. One tries to read a document online, but then decides to print it out for comfort’s sake. As a result, we print more than necessary. A large part of it ends up in the garbage in the twinkling of an eye, which encourages the waste of paper. What does that mean for companies that are forced to do a lot of administrative work?
Paper consumption is increasing from year to year. Compared to 2017, it recently exceeded 400 million tons per year. China, the USA and Japan consume more than half of this, while Europe bears a quarter. In comparison, Africa has a meager share of 2% and North America the highest. A person wastes an average of 55 kg. In North America it is four times as much, i.e. 215 kg per person. The increase in paper consumption in Asia is significant, whereas it is declining in North America (Environmental Paper Network, 2018).
The following graphic shows us the worldwide consumption of paper per person:
Source: (Environmental Paper Network, 2018)
Paper consumption in the office
The individual is not the only main consumer of paper. An office covers its paper consumption with digital prints, notepads or toilet paper. In the USA, an office worker consumes an average of 10,000 sheets of paper per year, this figure only refers to the printouts. Almost half of it ends up in waste. For a company this represents a loss of 120 billion dollars per year, for the forms alone that are printed. After all, paper consumption in business does not decrease. It is growing at an average rate of 22% per year, which will double paper consumption in three years (Record Nations, 2016). In addition, it is important to mention that most of the paper used in the global industry, is for packaging. As can be seen in the following graph, more than half of the paper is used for these purposes (Environmental Paper Network, 2018).
Source: (Environmental Paper Network, 2018)
The problem with relying on paper
A problem with the use of paper is the increased risk, because data loss is a big problem for companies. Lost, damaged or misplaced documents can lead to data breaches or loss of customers. Manual input of paper also increases the risk of errors. Employees become frustrated because they have to fill out, organize, and file long and tedious forms so that they can be retrieved when needed. All this leads to wasted space, lost productivity and ultimately increased operating costs, considering that searching for filed documents can take up to 30-40% of working time.
Source: (Device Magic, n.d.)
In addition, up to 20% of print jobs are never retrieved from printers. So it happens that sensitive data is accessible to everyone. Remember, many employees either don’t have access to shredders or simply don’t use them. This is how data protection is violated on a daily basis (Device Magic, n.d.).
Paper production has an important effect on the environment. Deforestation has become a major problem caused by the high paper consumption. In addition, the paper industry has an impact on the environment due to air pollution. During production, they cause pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen and sulphur are dioxides responsible for acid rain and carbon dioxide is a cause of climate change. Environmental damage in paper production is also affected by other problems such as water pollution. Companies produce other substances such as alcohol or inorganic materials such as chlorates. This type of environmental impact pollutes rivers and lakes. 26% of solid waste is paper thrown away (Worldatlas, 2018).
Source: (Exposing Truth, 2015)
For a further insight on this topic watch this video:
5 tips for offices to go paperless
To make it easier for companies to gradually approach the process of becoming paperless in the future, here are a few tips:
- Create an understanding and get everyone on the same page
As the company is dependent on its employees, a deeper understanding of change must be fostered so that everyone pulls in the same direction. Workshops or presentations on sustainability will help to show your staff how beneficial the reduction of paper use could be to the company, to the individual and to the world.
- Invest in the right technology
If an office copier is essential for your work, you should consider good quality and sustainability. A model with a built-in scanner and software is particularly suitable. Documents can be both copied and converted to a digital format. In the long-term this means further savings in expenditure for the company (Ross and Ross International, 2017).
- Use digital services like Dropbox or Google Drive
Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote are good examples of how you can sort and store your data online. In addition, they can also be accessible to others as needed, saving time and money as these services will cost less each year. Make sure your employees are familiar with these tools and train them as needed to ensure they all have the same level of knowledge (Lifehacker, 2018). Paper consumption is estimated to be reduced by 10-30% with targeted use of available technologies (WWF Panda a, n.d.).
- Reuse the paper
Paper always ends up in the trash with only one side labeled. You can counteract this by using the paper or envelopes for notes or idea sketches, for example. Once the paper is completely written on, it can end up in the trash specifically for paper (NIBusinessInfo, n.d.). In addition, double-sided copying of images saves up to 50% of paper costs (WWF Panda b, n.d.).
- Leave out unnecessary prints
Before you go to the printer, you should consider whether you really want to print the document. Many documents can also be processed digitally in a simple and time-saving way. In addition, every printout costs money. This money, which is saved, could be used for other purposes, which provide added value for the employees and the company (WWF Panda c, n.d.).
Device Magic, (n.d.). What Paper is Actually Costing your Business. [Online] Available at: https://www.devicemagic.com/what-paper-costs-your-business/[Accessed 03 November 2018]
Environmental Paper Network, 2018. The state of the global paper industry. [Online] Available at: http://environmentalpaper.org/stateoftheindustry2018/[Accessed 30 October 2018]
Exposing Truth, 2015. [Online] Available at: https://www.exposingtruth.com/5-reasons-recycling-needs-to-be-the-last-thing-you-do/[Accessed 30 October 2018]
NIBusinessInfo, (n.d.). Office resource efficiency. [Online] Available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/use-paper-efficiently-your-office[Accessed 02 November 2018]
Lifehacker, 2018. How to take steps toward a paperless office. [Online] Available at: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-take-steps-toward-a-paperless-office-1823328014[Accessed 01 November 2018]
Record Nations, 2016. How much paper is used in one day. [Online] Available at: https://www.recordnations.com/2016/02/how-much-paper-is-used-in-one-day/[Accessed 30 October 2018]
Ross and Ross International, 2017. Top 10 Paperless Office Technologies that will Increase Your Productivity. [Online] Available at: https://www.rossross.com/blog/top-10-paperless-office-technologies-that-save-you-money[Accessed 02 November 2018]
Worldatlas, 2018. What is the environmental impact of paper. [Online] Available at: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-the-environmental-impact-of-paper.html[Accessed 01 November 2018]
WWF a. (n.d.). Using technologies and better systems. [Online] Available at: http://wwf.panda.org/get_involved/live_green/fsc/save_paper/office_paper/technology/[Accessed 01 November 2018]
WWF b. (n.d.). Use paper more efficiently. [Online] Available at: http://wwf.panda.org/get_involved/live_green/fsc/save_paper/office_paper/use_paper_more_efficiently/[Accessed 01 November 2018]
WWF c. (n.d.). Use paper more efficiently. [Online] Available at: http://wwf.panda.org/get_involved/live_green/fsc/save_paper/office_paper/think_before_you_print/[Accessed 01 November 2018]