8 Scary Paper Waste Facts

Posted by MESHDS on Apr 26, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Summary: Wasting paper is a serious issue that takes place in all parts of society. Most of us are completely unaware of just how much paper is wasted on an annual basis or how to play a part when it comes to reducing the amount of paper waste. Here we detail 8 scary paper waste facts most people don't know and what you can do to make a difference.

Table of Contents

  1. How Much Paper is Being Wasted Each Year?
  2. What Wastes the Most Paper?
  3. What Is the Percentage of Paper Waste?
  4. What Causes Business Paper Waste?
  5. Why Is Paper Waste A Problem?
  6. Who Accounts for the Most Paper Waste?
  7. Why is Paper Manufacturing a Problem?
  8. Why are Trees Important?

The Importance of Paper Recycling

How Your Business Can Reduce Paper Waste

How Can Scan to Zero Help Organizations Go Paperless?


People are wasteful, there’s no doubt about it. However, when it comes to waste, we waste more paper than anything else. While you might think it’s more likely food, you’d be wrong. We’ve found six scary paper waste facts we think everyone should know.

Free eBook: Become a Paperless Company in 90 Days

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1. How Much Paper is Being Wasted Each Year?

According to the University of Southern Indiana, we throw away enough paper and wood each year to heat 50,000 homes for 20 years. That is equal to about 1 billion trees, 85,000,000 tons of paper a year and approximately 680 pounds per person. We waste so much paper each year it is enough to build a 12-foot wall from New York to California.

2. What Wastes the Most Paper?

Here are some of the most common causes of paper waste according to The World Counts:

  • Half the waste produced by businesses is paper, with 12.1 trillion sheets of paper used in American offices each year
  • It takes 75,000 trees to print the New York Times Sunday edition
  • A third of our trash is packaging
  • 12.1 trillion sheets of paper are used in American offices each year

3. What Is the Percentage Of Paper Waste?

In the U.S. 25% of landfill waste is paper and 33% of municipal waste is paper. This is equal to about 68 million trees.

4. What Causes Business Paper Waste?

Business paper waste is related to a number of issues including:

  • Printing mistakes
  • Junk mail
  • Billings
  • Packaging

Each business’ waste can average up to 70% of their total waste, with each employee wasting about 10,0000 pieces of paper each year. Also, packaging uses about 41% of the paper an average paper mill produces. The world uses about 22 billion kilometers of toilet paper rolled out, or 42 million tons. That is equal to 50,000 times the circumference of the Earth. Toilet paper waste takes its toll on the environment, using 712 million trees, 1,165 million tons of water and 78 million tons of oil to produce 42 million tons of toilet paper.

5. Why Is Paper Waste A Problem?

Paper production releases pollutants into the air including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. This pollution contributes to greenhouse gases and acid rain. But that’s not all. To produce one kilogram of paper it takes 324 litres of water according to University of Ontario. The paper manufacturing industry is the third biggest user of fossil fuel in the world and close to 40% of industrial logging goes to producing paper. 

This number is expected to rise to 50% despite digital technologies that could make the world paperless. In fact, demand for wood pulp for paper is one of the main reasons for deforestation. For example, the Canadian Boreal is logged at two acres per minute. As well, paper waste emits methane gas as it rots which is 25 times more toxic than CO2.

6. Who Accounts for the Most Paper Waste?

About 45% of the paper printed by office workers ends up in their garbage can as opposed to their recycle bin. This accounts for about 12.1 trillion sheets of paper every single year. Despite the availability of digital documents and storage, the U.S. still stores 95% of their information on paper. U.S. citizens, in general, account for 30% of the world’s paper waste although they only represent 5% of the entire world population. They also waste paper for over two billion books, 350 million magazines and 24 billion newspapers consumed each year. Once the paper serves its purpose, much of it is never recycled.

7. Why is Paper Manufacturing a Problem?

Paper production is the third biggest air polluter in the industrial world producing toxic materials that get into our water and soil. This contributes to the destruction of our natural ecosystems and the natural habitats for animals and plants. Old-growth forests are being eliminated and logging consumes energy, reduces the quality of water, and causes soil erosion.

8. Why are Trees Important?

One healthy large tree provides enough oxygen for a day for four people. In fact, trees are one of the main things protecting the planet from global warming. However, it takes 500 full-sized trees to help reduce carbon dioxide for one – yes just a single car driven 20,000 km/year. In urban centers, trees offer many benefits including:

  • Isolating gaseous air pollutants and particulates.
  • Helping reduce energy consumption by providing shade and reducing wind
  • Storm-water reduction
  • Reducing noise pollution
  • Providing wildlife habitats
  • Increasing property value
  • Improving the city streets and parks with more green and green space
  • Trees also contribute to psychological wellbeing.

The Importance of Paper Recycling

For everyone one ton of paper we recycle, 26,500 litres of water and 17 trees are saved. Using recycled paper also helps, as it takes 64% less energy to produce than new paper.

How Your Business Can Reduce Paper Waste

Businesses can reduce paper waste in several ways:

  • Having a no print policy
  • When paper is necessary, ensure it is limited to double-sided printing, with as few copies made as possible
  • Keeping track of overprinting to reduce copies the next time around
  • Opting for electronic marketing for direct mail campaigns
  • Checking mailing lists for redundancies
  • Formatting pages to be printed with reduced margins, font size and font style such as New Roman or Ariel to get more content on a page
  • Only using email, messaging programs and texting to communicate
  • Having a paperless/green culture
  • Writing notes and keeping schedules on phones
  • Adopting electronic forms
  • Using a shared network drive or program for collaborative approvals, editing, amendments, project schedules, etc.
  • Using Scan to Zero to become paperless
  • Using cloud-based storage for all data and documents
  • Recycle and reuse any paper in the office

How Can Scan to Zero Help Organizations Go Paperless?

Scan to Zero allows organizations to slowly ease out paper documents until they can convert to a completely paperless office. Paper documents are scanned in small amounts each month and then stored on a safe and secure management system, while new documents are no longer printed. Eventually, paper is eliminated and the office becomes paperless.

For more information about Scan to Zero and digitization, speak to MES today.

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