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The Paper Consumption Problem: Statistics on the paper use
Paperless Society

The Paper Consumption Problem: Statistics on the paper use

Sura Aydin
June 29, 2022

Introduction: What is the Paper Consumption Problem?

Paper production and consumption stand out as of the world's most pressing environmental issues. Paper consumption is a severe problem because it has a significant negative impact on the environment. It also affects the natural habitats of animals and plants and has been linked to deforestation, leading to climate change.

The main drivers of paper production and consumption are businesses and government organizations, printing and publishing industries, schools, universities, libraries, households, hospitals, and other medical institutions. All together, we can solve this problem by reducing paper consumption in all these sectors as well as by recycling paper waste.

The Solution to Paper Consumption Problem

A paperless society is a concept of living without paper. It is a system you can implement to reduce paper use in offices, schools, and homes. The paperless society is also the idea that we will eventually have a culture where there are no papers. A zero-waste lifestyle is an environmental movement to reduce waste by changing habits and lifestyles.

The paperless society is the future.

We live in a world where most of our digital information has devices that allow us to store it and access it at any time. But what about the information that isn't digital? What about all those pieces of paper and those receipts that we still need to keep for tax purposes? What about all our notes from meetings? What about our scribbles on napkins or the post-it notes on our desk? We use all these pieces of paper daily without noticing much.

Let's see some statistics on paper consumption from individual to macro-level:

The paper industry is the third of the biggest industries polluting the air, water, and land. This also means paper production is one of the most energy-intensive manufacturing industries. Simply put into understanding what it takes from us to produce paper, an A4 paper requires an average of 5 liters of water is used and 7 trees are used to make 1 ton of paper.

First of all, 300 million tons of paper are produced in the world annually. For that production, 4 billion trees are cut down each year to make paper. To note and keep in mind the value of a tree, every tree produces enough oxygen for 3 people to breathe. 

However, 93% of paper comes from trees. Unfortunately, worldwide paper consumption has risen by 400% in the last 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees used for paper manufacturing.

Based on this calculation, when 1 ton of paper is saved,

  • 17 trees, 
  • 26000 liters of water, 
  • 4000 kilowatts of power supply, and 
  • 240 liters of fuel 

is saved.

Along with this, even though the business field has become more digitized, an average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of office paper per year along with 500 "disposable" coffee cups in the office. Daily, they produce 1 kilogram of paper and cardboard waste. An ordinary office employee produces 160 kilograms of paper waste; 45% of all the paper goes to the bin on the same day after the printing.

It is also suggested that 3% of company earnings is spent on paper-related activities and that 50% of all office waste is paper. This means that U.S. companies spend $120 million annually on printed documents.

On the other hand, American people consume about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year. This means a person uses 300 kilograms of paper for printing, writing, and more. With a quick and simple calculation, such consumption requires 535 million trees and 12 billion gallons of oil. 

Let’s remember again the fact that every tree produces enough oxygen for 3 people to breathe. 

Paperless Society - A Waste Reduction Revolution

The paperless society is a waste reduction revolution. It cuts down on the amount of paper we use and the amount of time we spend organizing and filing that paper.

The benefits of going paperless are twofold: it cuts down on the environmental impact and dramatically reduces our personal footprint.

This is not just a trend - it's a necessity. Paper is expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable for our environment. 

Sura Aydin

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