Paper currently makes up around 20% of all the waste that we throw away in the UK each year. It’s a resource that we use widely, from offices to hospitals and schools and - despite the fact that there are lots of alternative options available for disposal - much of the paper waste we generate still ends up in landfill. Given the urgency that exists to switch to a more sustainable way of living and working, what can be done about it?
How much paper actually gets wasted in the UK?
Every year in the UK we use around 12.5 million tons of paper. It’s a resource that we have come to rely on in many different areas of our lives. For example, office environments use around 10,000 tons of paper a year and 75% of this just ends up in the bin. The average primary school student generates around 45kg of paper waste in the UK per year and for secondary school students it is 22kg. In total, that annual consumption of paper in the UK is equivalent to around 21,000 square km of trees - if we just recycled 10% more than we currently do that would save 5 million of those trees.
Where are we wasting the most paper?
- Office environments. There is no doubt that offices are a major culprit when it comes to wasting paper. From printing out emails to creating documents for meetings that just go in the bin there are so many ways this can happen. Some simple changes to help improve the situation include investing in cloud-based solutions, introducing a more print-aware policy in the business and working with a secure shredding partner that is committed to recycling.
- Schools. As educational environments become increasingly tech-driven there are a wealth of opportunities for schools to reduce the volume of paper that gets wasted. Switching to paperless resources (e.g. interactive games and videos) is a great example, as well as opting for email, rather than paper, newsletters to parents and staff. For those schools with the budget, the option to move from textbooks to laptops etc is there.
- Healthcare. Hospitals spend up to £1,000,000 a year storing physical documents so reducing paper use within the system can have a wide range of benefits. Digital medical records and prescriptions, as well as using the cloud for admin, are all options here.
Working with a shredding partner
As organisations and industries make the transition to environments that are more focused on minimising paper waste, there is a need to ensure that existing volumes are properly dealt with. Working with a shredding partner to handle paper disposal will not only ensure that more paper waste is recycled and less ends up in landfill but also that requirements for data protection compliance and information security are being met too.
The UK wastes a large volume of paper every year and there are some very simple solutions in terms of how it could do better.
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