Staggering Facts That Will Make You Think Differently About Your Paper Usage

Dark-Horse-1aWith the continued reliance on and development of electronic communication systems, you would think our paper usage would be decreasing. Surprisingly, this is not the case and demand for paper products is higher than ever. Paper is still widely used for writing letters, notes, printing, magazines, newspapers, cardboard and packing. It is one of the most important and widely used consumer materials, with 2007-2008 seeing Australians use 4,250,000 tonnes of paper. Its versatility makes it a valuable resource – all the more reason why it should be recycled.

Paper’s environmental impact

To convert raw materials into paper products requires a variety of production processes, including mechanical, chemical, bleaching and pulping. These processes consume large amounts of energy and require precious natural resources, including trees and water. To produce just one tonne of paper, it takes 20 full-grown trees and more than 90,000 litres of water. This causes 1.46 tonnes of greenhouse gases to be emitted.

When paper is wasted…

The average office worker will throw out approximately 50 kilograms of high-grade paper every year – the equivalent of 10,000 sheets of paper. This amounts to Australians sending 1.9 million tonnes of paper to landfill every year, most of which could have been recycled. When paper goes to landfill, it produces dangerous greenhouse gases during decomposition. These gases include methane, a major greenhouse gas with a global warming capacity 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It also takes up landfill space, which the country is rapidly running out of.

Dark-Horse-1bWhen paper is recycled…

Manufacturing paper and cardboard from recycled material can conserve up to 13 trees per tonne of paper. It also uses up to 50 percent less energy and 90 percent less water.

Producing one tonne of recycled paper saves:

  • 31,780 litres of water
  • 4,100 kilowatts of electricity
  • 75 percent of chlorinated bleach
  • 27 kilograms of air pollutants
  • 13-24 trees
  • 4 cubic metres of landfill
  • 2.5 barrels of oil
With these environmental impacts in mind, a mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle can help make a difference.


Australian businesses still post 4.2 billion items every year, so instead of posting or faxing, try mailing documents electronically. Encourage suppliers to send bills and invoices electronically too. When storing documents, create online files that permitted staff can access rather than creating individual sets of paper documents. This can be done by scanning paper documents and converting them into searchable PDF format. Think carefully before you print each document. Do you need to print the whole thing or could you copy and paste a section into a separate word document? If you must print, use both sides of the paper. For every 100 reams of paper that is printed double-sided, two trees, more than one tonne of greenhouse gases and almost a cubic metre of landfill space are saved. You could also try reducing page numbers by using smaller fonts and thinner page margins. Also consider reducing other paper products, such as paper cups and paper towel. Encourage staff to use the same ceramic mug throughout the day and replace paper towel with tea towels and washcloths.


The more paper products you can reuse a second time before recycling, the kinder it is to the environment. Try placing labels over old addresses and envelopes and flatten and store large boxes until they are needed again. Any one-sided paper found lying around the office can be turned into notepads.


Most local councils collect paper products for recycling via kerbside collection. Materials that can be recycled include cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, brochures, copy paper, printed matter, envelopes, manila folders and phone books. Material to avoid includes carbon and self carbonised paper, facial tissues, tissue paper, adhesive labels and thermal fax paper. You can also ensure that you only buy products made from recycled materials. As demand increases for recycled products, manufacturers will be encouraged to concentrate on producing them. Most recycled products cost just a fraction more to purchase, yet the impact on the environment is dramatically reduced.

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