A Trillion Pages of Waste A Day
Despite having spent ten years working in the environment and sustainability field, the sheer volume of our consumption of natural resources still has the capacity to leave me speechless. And it happened again yesterday as I read the Sundays. The Observer had a piece on the world’s consumption of printer paper – 2.5 and 2.8 trillion worldwide of which 45% is binned within the day – a cool trillion pages of unwanted e-mails, cover sheets, drafts, accidental prints etc. Of course the economic cost of this is not just disposal, but the whole cost of ordering, purchase cost, storage, distribution, loading the printer, maintaining the printer (more printing = more wear & tear), emptying the bins and then finally disposal.
Some solutions to this are easy – use 2-sided (duplex) printing, don’t print cover sheets (you should really know what paper is yours) and don’t print e-mails unless there is a commercial/legal imperative etc. I also find, provided your eyesight is OK, drafts and some large documents can be printed 2 pages to each side of A4 – so you get 4 ‘pages’ to one piece of paper. The main difficulty I have is I still like to scribble over draft reports with a red pen, so I now try to restrict myself to printing a draft every other time I get the urge to!
In the wider organisation, information, directories etc can be stored on an intranet, inessential handouts can be banned from meetings and individual departments can be given paper/printing cost reduction targets.
Unfortunately, despite this, we seem further from the ‘paperless office’ than where we were 32 years ago when the term was coined.