How much paper waste is costing your business?

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How much paper did you use in the office today? How much is paper waste costing you? It does not seem to be a relevant figure in your finance´s book, but it certainly has an impact on the yearly expenses.
Between invoices, notes, documents and others, paper is being consumed on a great scale every day. According to The World Count statistics, every person uses more than two pieces of paper every hour. In the USA, Japan, and Europe an average person uses between 250 and 300 kilos of paper every year. Studies carried out by Tufts University and the non-profit Forest Ethics estimate that the average American office worker uses a sheet of paper every 12 minutes.
Environmental costs of paper waste
Reducing paper waste can help with several environmental problems. As claimed by the Resource Conservation Alliance, 40% of the world’s trees harvested is used to produce paper. Unfortunately, the degradation of forests is only part of the story. The life cycle of paper damages the environment from beginning to end. It starts off with a tree being cut down and ends by being burned – emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Economic costs of paper waste
In addition to the consequences that paper waste has for the environment, it has an impact on your company’s finances. Paper itself may not be expensive, but the costs spent on storage, copying, printing and postage add up expenses. Studies estimate that associated paper costs such as these total to roughly 30 times the actual purchasing cost.
How much money do you spend on paper waste?
Industry research firm Gartner, Inc., estimates that as much as 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on paper, printing, filing, storing and maintaining files of information. Furthermore, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year. It is also concluded that 50% of the waste of businesses is composed of paper.
Companies in Chile spend, on average, 16 million 414 thousand pesos annually to fill a four boxes archival system, and 1 million 313 thousand pesos to maintain it.
How can you calculate the cost of paper consumption and waste?
The cost of paper consumption includes: purchase and transport cost, storage cost in the office, cost of use and waste. To start we propose to measure the most important costs:  
Paper cost. You can find it in the invoices or in the list that you get from the suppliers.
Printing and photocopying costs. At the cost of the paper itself, you must add the cost of printing and photocopying since these are the main uses of paper in the offices.
Document shredding costs. Offices that handle sensitive information must adhere to rigorous document destruction. These costs include the price of the equipment, labour and resources involved in this task.
How to reduce paper waste?
There are many ways you can minimize both the financial and environmental impact of your office paper waste. Here are some simple and cost-effective tips.
Printing double sided. One of the most obvious ways to save paper is to print double sided as much as possible.
Recycle paper rather than throw it away.
Make it easy to recycle in the office. Get your office to let employees know what they can recycle, and put in recycling bins.
Changing the printers setting on many inkjet printers, you can change the quality of the print job from “best” to “draft,” or from “photo” to “fast.” Laser printers also give you the option of changing the DPI (dots per inch) from, say, 1,200 to 300 reducing the quality, the ink and toner used, and the time spent on the printing job.
Use less paper. Exchange documents and memos electronically rather than printing or faxing. Determine whether circulars or hand-outs really need to be printed. Use electronic data storage rather than hard copy files.
Change bills to ‘paperless’ and pay them either online or over the phone.
Reduce junk mail by unsubscribing from lists you do not want to be on.
Store important documents on your computer rather than in printed form.
Switch your magazine and newspaper subscriptions to online subscriptions.
Next time you are about to press that button, ask yourself the following question: Do I really need to print this? Simple steps to improve awareness of recycling in an office or shop can lead to significant savings for businesses. Reducing the amount of paper waste could be beneficial for the environment and for your savings.

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Sandra Melo

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