More paper than ever binned as myth of the paperless office exposed

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Think before you print! Paper waste costing British business thousands

The much-hyped “paperless office” that was the buzzword of the opening years of the computer age remains a myth as businesses and offices say they’re using just as much – if not more – paper than they ever did.

According to one environmentally-conscious waste management and recycling company, businesses are ordering more paper, ink cartridges and associated products in 2014 than they were five years ago, resulting in millions of tonnes of wasted paper.

The only consolation is the increased amount of wasted paper that gets sent for recycling, says – but that’s only if companies get their employees to put wasted paper and spent cartridges into the right bins.

“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,” says spokesperson Mark Hall.

“This means that companies really have to pull their fingers out and stop wasting so much of the stuff,” he continues. “We reckon about seven million tonnes of paper is sent to landfill instead of being recycled”. asked over 250 companies about their paper and office supply habits over the last five years and found that many were using just as much as they were before, despite having green policies in place to cut down on paperwork.

• 31% of companies say they are ordering more paper and associated products than they were five years ago
• 43% say they are using “about the same” amount of paper products compared with 2009
• 23% said they were using less paper than they were five years ago
• 3% expressed no opinion

While some 30% of household waste is paper, this rises to as high as 80% for some office-based businesses. The average Briton uses 200kg of paper products each year, of which only approximately 43% is recycled. says these figures add up to a conservative estimate of 6.84 million tonnes of paper not being recycled annually.

And that’s before we take other products such as ink cartridges into account. According to government figures, only 15% of the 64 million sold in the UK to businesses and households are recycled, leading to thousands of tonnes of needless waste.

Both paper and other recyclable products in general waste increase companies’ landfill tax bill, with potential losses of thousands of pounds, Business Waste says.

“Some companies have a ‘Think before you print’ policy, while others make you log in to a print server before letting you print something out,” says Mark Hall, “But that’s often impractical for many smaller businesses for whom this would be an expense too far.”

One of the major problems is that British customers prefer to do business through a physical piece of paper rather than electronically, meaning that paper is a necessary evil for most companies, hospitals, shops, and other establishments.

“Businesses simply must cut back on the amount of paper they use for printing,” says Hall, “and one of the greatest expenses is the botched print job, sent straight to the bins because of one easily-avoidable mistake.”

The one real solution is an across-the-board approach to ordering paper and supplies, cutting the amount of printing to weekly or monthly targets, and ensuring that any waste is properly recycled.

“That way we can stop killing trees to keep our companies in paper,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall.

“So we’re making it clear: Think before you print out this press release.”

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