7 Global Office Paper Waste Statistics

We’re living in a digital age, but global paper waste statistics remain huge. In fact, paper consumption is predicted to continue to increase further over the next few years, despite businesses being better prepared for a digital-first approach than ever before.

Paperlite, Paperless, Digital is the future

Organisations that are yet to go paperless are missing out on multiple benefits, and are continuing to contribute to the environmental effects of paper production. Office paper waste statistics from around the world speak for themselves, with the UK government even introducing new legislation to cut paper consumption for government departments and businesses alike.

The Electronic Trade Documents Act[1]  was introduced in 2023 to reduce the 28.5 billion paper trade documents printed and flown across the globe each day to cut carbon emissions and boost productivity.

Many companies are also transitioning to a paperless office to support their environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies, which are becoming increasingly valued by both clients and customers. Read on to learn more about the environmental impact of paper industry activity, and discover the latest paperless data.

The Benefits of Going Paperless

There are so many benefits to going paperless, beyond the environmental impact. The benefits of going paperless include:

  • Free up physical space – a tidier office free from storage boxes, filing cabinets and piles of paper means there’s more space to collaborate or for breakout areas
  • Save time – searching for specific documents manually can potentially take hours. With digital document management, individual files can be located in seconds
  • Save money – time is money; by freeing up employees’ time, they can devote more energy to higher-value tasks, benefiting your bottom line
  • Increase efficiency – it’s faster and easier to find and process documents when everything is digital
  • Improve access to files – improve document sharing with a digital document management system that allows all team members to access files, whether they’re in the office or working from home
  • Strengthen your disaster recovery policy – digital documents are protected from physical risk factors such as fire and flood
  • Improve compliance – remove the risk of sensitive data being lost or falling into the wrong hands with secure digital document management

In fact, the first of our paperless statistics is that a poll carried out by Cygentise[2]  found that 80% of governance, risk and compliance managers surveyed would like their organisation to go paperless. An additional 13% of those questioned said they’d like to if it was possible. This shows significant support for paperless offices among risk management professionals, further demonstrating the compliance benefits of doing so.

How Does Paper Affect the Environment?

The environmental effects of paper production are huge. Cutting down trees to make paper and pulp creates both temporary and long-term environmental disturbances to vital forest habitats, including to plant and animal biodiversity, soil fertility, and water quality.

But deforestation is just one aspect of the environmental impact of the paper industry. It also takes 10 litres of water to produce a single sheet of A4 paper. With 500 sheets per ream of paper, that’s 5,000 litres per ream. Chlorine-based bleaches are used in paper production too, which can be toxic to water, air and soil. What’s more, when paper eventually rots, it emits methane gas during the process – these emissions are 25 times more toxic to the environment than carbon dioxide.

In the digital age, businesses need to seriously consider their paper usage, and whether they really need to continue using so much – or any at all. The devastating environmental effects of paper production are clear to see, but by going paperless, organisations can do their bit to reduce paper consumption, improve compliance, and strengthen their ESG policy.

7 Paperless Office Statistics

Paper waste statistics from the UK and around the world highlight the extent of global paper consumption, and how much is wasted when digital solutions could be used instead. These paperless office statistics are just the tip of the iceberg; it’s also important to consider the number of documents printed unnecessarily, how many are left in the printer, and whether everyone needs a paper copy of meeting agendas or minutes.

1. Each Office Worker Uses 10,000 Sheets of Paper a Year

The first of our office paper waste statistics shows just how much paper is being used in offices every year – a truly shocking amount. The average person working full-time in an office uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year – that’s 4 boxes or 20 reams of paper per person, with 500 sheets per ream.

At an estimated cost of £10 per box of paper, the typical office worker is using £40 worth of paper per year. Multiply that across your entire workforce, and that’s a huge cost, just for paper. And how much of that is actually needed?

2. 199 Tonnes of Paper Produced Every 15 Seconds

Perhaps the most shocking of all the paper waste statistics is that more than 199 tonnes of paper are produced across the world every 15 seconds, according to data from The World Counts[3] . That’s a mind-boggling amount of paper – several hundred tonnes since you started reading this paragraph.

3. Over 2 Million Hectares of Forest Burned Each Month

In a single month, the environmental effects of paper production result in over 2 million hectares of forest being burned across the world in order to produce around 40 million tonnes of paper – and that’s just in a month. The World Counts has a live counter on its website, showing the figure rising rapidly every single second.

If you need paperless data that packs a punch to persuade your bosses that this is the right approach, highlighting the industry’s global impact will help put your office’s usage into perspective; if every business of your size continues their current consumption, what will the impact on vital forests be in 1, 5, or 10 years’ time?

4. UK Produced 5 Million Tonnes of Paper Waste in 2021

The next of our paper waste statistics relates to packaging, rather than simply office paper, but it still applies to businesses’ use of these materials.

Paper and cardboard accounted for 5.4 million tonnes of the UK’s total packaging waste in 2021, data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)[4]  shows. Of this, just 70.6% was recycled. As a result, businesses packing and receiving shipments need to think about their consumption of paper-based packaging too, as well as their recycling policies.

5. Double-Sided Printing Could Save Businesses Thousands

Next on our list of paper waste statistics is that double-sided printing and photocopying could save businesses that do still need to use some paper thousands of pounds per year. Automatically halve your document printing costs by printing and copying on both sides of the sheet.

Citigroup looked into this and found that if all of its employees conserved just one sheet of paper each week, the organisation would save $700,000 per year.

6. Global Paper Consumption Predicted to Rise Further

Despite the shocking office paper waste statistics from around the world, data from Statista[5]  shows that global paper consumption is still predicted to rise further, to 476 million tonnes per year by 2032. But can we continue in this vein? It’s time to seriously consider the paperless data and how your organisation can play its part.

7. Paperless Trade Could Reduce Global Carbon Emissions by 12%

By digitising trade documents, businesses and government departments could contribute to reducing global carbon emissions from logistics by up to 12%, analysis from the World Economic Forum (WEF) found. The WEF published these findings to support the case for the UK’s Electronic Trade Documents Act.

These paperless office statistics demonstrate the environmental benefits of just digitising trade documents, indicating that the benefits of going paperless across all operations could be huge, reducing carbon emissions even more dramatically.

Go Paperless with Restore Digital

Shocked by these paper waste statistics and want to do your bit to make a difference? Restore Digital’s document scanning services can support your organisation to go paperless. Whether you’re bulk scanning files, archive records or even medical records, we can help you. We’ll even securely destroy your old paper documents for you once they’ve been digitised via our DataShred service.

Store and manage your digitised documents via one of our document management solutions, and consider implementing a digital mailroom too for a full digital transformation. Do your bit to combat the environmental effects of paper production and start your journey to a digital future.

Get a document scanning quote today, or contact our team to find out more.

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