Climate Action

UK businesses waste paper and harm environment, survey claims

British businesses can do more to tackle paper wastage, a new survey has announced.

  • 25 August 2010
  • Simione Talanoa

The effort to decrease the amount of paper put to waste by British companies is not proving as effective as once hoped, according to a survey carried out on 1,000 office workers in the UK.

The survey, which was carried out by research firm Loudhouse on behalf of Kyocera, found that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and an estimated 6,800 of those sheets are wasted.

This wastage, the report suggests, hints at a growing complacency regarding the effect that over-consumption of paper can have on the environment. Only 68 per cent of those taking part in the survey admitted to being personally concerned about the environment – a number down from 77 per cent recorded in a similar survey in 2008. This could suggest a certain amount of 'green fatigue' is taking place amongst employees.

Despite this apparent drop in environmental concern, 70 per cent of IT managers said that companies could make more of an effort to educate employees on the financial and ecological benefits of efficient paper use. Managers also report progress in encouraging green printing practices – around 40 per cent recorded an increase of executive support in putting green printing practices on the business agenda, incorporating environmental practices into agendas and encouraging less paper wastage.

According to the workers surveyed, green printing policies are becoming more common place. 78 per cent of companies reportedly encourage paper recycling and reminders against printing email messages have been recorded by 55 per cent of the companies taking part in the survey.

Pulp and paper production rank amongst the more resource-intensive and highly polluting of all manufacturing industries. Its production necessitates a large amount of deforestation – paper production reportedly accounts for around 35 per cent of felled trees – and the bleaching process used to brighten paper releases chlorine. In addition certain processes of discarding of waste, namely incineration, can release large amounts of CO2.

Much emphasis is placed on the benefits of recycling paper: namely that less virgin fibre is utilised, the level of energy consumption is reduced and pollution levels are decreased. Studies show that recycling causes 35 per cent water pollution and 74 per cent less air pollution than making virgin paper.

However, there are certain limitations to recycling – not all paper types can be completely recycled because fibres degrade beyond use after a certain point. As a result, a certain amount of virgin fibre will still be necessary in the development of recycled paper.

The European Commission has specific guidelines regarding the level of paper recycling carried out in Europe. In 2004, the paper recycling rate in Europe was 54.6 per cent. The rate reached 64.5 per cent in 2007 and is on target to meeting the voluntary target of 66 per cent by the end of this year.


Author: Tom Watts | Climate Action

Images: | Flickr