Managing paper use in the office: Conducting a paper use survey

Submitted by: Kathryn Kasavel, Tuesday, October 29, 2013

<p>Managing paper use in the office is one way to reduce your organisation’s environmental impact (Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_10300142_recycle-bin-filled-with-crumpled-papers.html'>tpabma / 123RF Stock Photo</a>).</p>

Managing paper use in the office is one way to reduce your organisation’s environmental impact (Image credit: tpabma / 123RF Stock Photo).

Managing paper use in the office is a simple and effective way of reducing your organisation’s impact on the environment and saving money. greenOFFICE, a Managed Print Service company, conducted a paper use survey at an anonymous company in order to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of staff when it comes to paper use. A paper use survey can help your organisation to highlight any paper use inefficiencies and target appropriate reduction strategies.

Sade Moneron, Sustainability Assistant at greenOFFICE said the company undertook the survey to get an idea about peoples printing behaviours and to gain a better understanding of company printer environments and paper use for their client sites.

Paper use survey results

The results of the survey conducted in June 2013 showed that every year approximately 548,800 sheets of paper are printed at the respective office. A total of 80 staff are office based and so that equates to around 6,850 sheets of paper per person per year, which is an average of 28 sheets of paper per person per day.

Some of the reasons for their high paper use are associated with the following:

Staff printing single-sided documents

Only 10% of the employees interviewed stated that they always duplex print (print double-sided), which amounts to approximately 493,920 sheets of paper that are printed single-sided. Moneron says that, based on the results of their survey, a key area that companies should be focusing on is printing duplex. She states that “it is the easiest to implement with the biggest impact as it is where most of your paper use waste comes from”.

Printing to read, edit, and proofread documents

A substantial number of staff admitted to sometimes printing documents to read, edit or proofread documents. According to the survey results, a total of 115,248 sheets of paper could have been avoided being printed if documents were read, edited and proofread on screen instead of being printed.

Duplicates, incorrect documents, and documents forgotten at the printer

In addition, a total of 76,832 sheets of paper printed are unnecessary duplicates, 82,320 sheets printed are the incorrect documents, and 27,440 sheets of paper are forgotten at the printer by staff.

Paper reduction and re-use strategies

Moneron says that in order to reduce the amount of paper used in an office, it is important to present the results of the paper use survey to educate staff, and use posters to create awareness and encourage employees to print less and print duplex.

Other strategies that organisations can employ to reduce their paper usage include delegating printing privileges to a few members of staff which will help to restrict wasteful paper use; converting to a paper-less office by conducting more activities and tasks digitally, like electronic filing; and using email instead of envelopes and letters to clients.

In addition to reduction strategies, there are many ways that paper can be re-used in the office environment, including using paper that has been printed on one side for draft or internal printing, and sharing printed copies of information in your office rather than printing multiple copies.

Paper recycling

Another area that the paper use survey looked at was recycling. In addition to the paper usage, it is estimated that 50% of the paper waste is not recycled, with over 700kg of paper waste ending up in landfill annually. Whilst 97% of the staff surveyed believe that it is important to recycle, only 74% of staff practice recycling.

Only 38% of the office’s paper is used on both sides before placing in the recycling bin and therefore approximately 306,321 clean pages are wasted every year which equates to 1.409 tonnes of paper.

Paper recycling strategies

There are a number of strategies that can be used to improve recycling rates in an office environment. These include educating staff about the benefits of recycling and making it easy for staff to deposit their used paper in conveniently located recycle bins. Recycling however should always be the last option after reducing paper use and re-using paper in the office.

Implementing your own office paper use survey

By managing the paper use in your office you can save paper, reduce printing costs and minimise your organisation’s impact on the environment. Moneron advises other companies to conduct their own office paper use surveys:

“It was so easy to undertake the survey... I sent out the survey through an online survey tool to the staff and gave them three weeks to respond. From the results you can gauge what the employees’ opinions are and which areas to tackle first. The survey can also help your organisation to monitor and measure exactly how much paper you are using. Most companies don’t even know how much paper they use and through undertaking a survey they can find out how much they are using and identify ways to reduce their paper use”.

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Kathryn Kasavel