How much paper waste does your office create?

How much paper waste does your office create?

How much paper waste does your office create?

The concept of the paperless office is not a new one. Since as long ago as the 1960s, futurists have predicted that a world without paperwork is just around the corner, and the mainframe terminal, personal computer and internet have all been held up as the sign of its coming.

Decades later, however, it seems that there's still a lot of life left in the humble printout. In 2013, for example, the Policy Exchange thinktank published a report that claimed the UK government could save as much as £70 billion in the run-up to 2020 by binning paper-based processes. It noted that the Crown Prosecution Service still prints one million sheets of paper per day, while two articulated trucks' worth of documents are handled by the DVLA in the same length of time.

Now, a study from a waste management company reveals that British businesses aren't just taking their time when it comes to adopting paperless processes - they're actually moving backwards.

Last month, Business Waste polled a total of 250 firms around the UK about their paper and office supply habits between 2009 and the present day. It found that almost a third (31 per cent) of respondents are ordering more paper and associated products today than they were five years ago, creating more waste and spending greater amounts on consumables than ever. Just one in five firms (23 per cent) told the company they now use less paper than they did in 2009.

Surprisingly, many respondents had introduced so-called "green policies" in a bid to cut down on their paper waste, suggesting that a worrying number of British businesses are merely paying lip service to environmental sustainability.

The survey also found that in some offices, paper accounts for as much as 80 per cent of total waste - fifty percentage points more than in domestic environments. Based on a government estimate that just 43 per cent of waste paper is recycled, this adds up to around seven million tonnes sent to landfill per annum.

Commenting on the figures, Business Waste spokesperson Mark Hall said: "We've been promised a paperless office culture for years, but it's painfully clear that dead trees aren't going to go out of fashion for a long time to come.

"This means that companies really have to pull their fingers out and stop wasting so much of the stuff."

Clamping down on paper waste is, of course, just one of the ways that firms can improve their energy efficiency - an area of development described in an October 2014 report from the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) as "central to a number of current challenges" in the British business world.

Some of the other methods gaining traction are the installation of solar panels, adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and processes, and use of third-party suppliers whose own green credentials are of a high standard.

"Although a relatively new market in the UK, non-domestic energy efficiency is fast growing and is forecast to require up to £15 billion of investment between now and 2020," commented Bill Rogers, GIB's head of strategy.


Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Thinkstock