The holidays are a time when American consumers spend a lot of cash. But we’re not just spending a lot of paper—we’re wasting a lot of it as well.
Over the holiday season, Americans are throwing out a whopping 6 million tons of waste – 4 million tons of which stem from shopping bags and wrapping paper.
That’s startling when you think of the fact that the holiday season is only about six weeks. This means people are throwing out a whopping 1 million tons of waste each week.
Imagine how many trees we’d save just by using reusable cloth bags for shopping and foregoing the use of gift-wrap. Our landfills would look less full and our forests fuller.
But it’s not just the holiday season that’s causing a ruckus in this paper waste dilemma. Let’s take a look at several other facts that show it’s time for a paperless change.
1. 85 Million Tons of Paper Waste Created Each Year
Think about all the paper products you use on a daily basis. Besides grocery bags, toilet paper, and gift wrap, we’re also receiving a lot of paper mail.
Just think about all the documents you receive each month, such as your water bill, electric bill, cable bill, phone bill, and other invoices.
Most of these documents are thrown out, making them a total waste of time (pun intended).
And this is why we have 85 million tons of paper waste created each year. This translates to about 680 pounds of paper per person.
2. 70% of Office Waste Consists of Paper
This doesn’t come as a surprise, especially when you think of all the paperwork we consume in the workplace. Roughly 70% of total waste in offices is paper waste.
We’re filling out HR documents, creating files for clients and employees, printing out papers, and receiving mail.
What makes matters worse is that 30% of printed papers are never picked up and another 45% ends thrown away before the work day ends.
When you put all the numbers together, Americans throw away enough office paper to create a 12-foot tall wall all the way from New York to Seattle (each year!).
3. Paper Makes Up 40% of Waste Dumped in Landfills
This means nearly half of U.S. landfills are recyclable. Yet, we still continue to trash papers with the non-recyclables.
We’re tossing out milk and juice cartons, paper towels, kid’s drawings, homework notes, and a host of other paper and documents that should be reinvented—not shipped to landfills.
Now, we have 40% of landfills containing paper waste—thanks to the nearly 85 million tons of paper thrown out each year.
4. Newspapers Take Up 13% of Space in Landfills
This is surprising, especially with there being alternative methods for finding news. Yet, we still find 13% of the landfill containing newspapers.
By switching over to digital news channels, we could significantly reduce the paper waste we produce. If this worries you, consider subscribing to online news sites versus paper ones.
You will find that popular news channels have both digital and paper subscription options.
5. The Average Office Worker Goes Through 10,000 Sheets of Paper (Per Year)
How is it possible for office personnel to still produce this amount of paper annually, given all the digital alternatives?
It likely has something to do with all of those copies and prints office workers produce each day. If you work in the office, consider scanning documents and emailing them, versus mailing them out.
Maybe then we can substantially reduce the 10,000 sheets of paper we’re wasting annually.
6. One Document is Photocopied 19 Times in its Lifespan
Businesses rely on delivering paperwork in a timely fashion. This means making photocopies of important documents and mailing them out to recipients.
While this has been the way of doing business in the past, it’s now becoming a hazardous nuisance. One document is photocopied 19 times during its lifespan.
That’s a lot of paper being created per document, especially when there are other means of sending out paperwork. By far, the most efficient method is to scan and email documents vs photocopying and mailing them.
7. 4 Million Tons of Junk Mail Goes to Landfills Annually
No one likes them – junk mail fliers that end up in your mailbox each day. The chances of you hanging on to one is next to none, which is why we find an astounding 4 million tons of junk mail delivered to landfills each year.
Even the EPA sees this as an issue to resolve, stating that more than 50% of junk mail ends up in the landfill each year.
It’s bad enough we get unsolicited spam emails. Maybe it’s time these companies come up with a more personalized approach to their marketing strategy that doesn’t involve paper.
8. American Businesses Use 21 Million Tons of Paper Annually
It appears that both consumers and businesses are the culprits when it comes to the mounding paper waste in this country (and around the world).
Here’s a paper waste fact that might surprise you. In America, businesses are responsible for producing 21 million tons of paper waste each year. This is a stat no company should be proud of, especially when we’re on the verge of an environmental crisis.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize your own effects on pollution. For example, you can switch over to digital document and e-signature platforms like eversign.
This way, you can easily manage all of your paperwork without fear of them getting lost (or thrown away).
Ad if your business is on the more wasteful side, consider taking notes from 10 of the greenest companies in the U.S.
9. For Every Ton of Paper Produced, 380 Gallons of Oil is Used
Oil consumption is another problem we’re dealing with. A lot of countries and businesses are looking for ways to lessen their carbon footprint by switching to green alternatives.
If the landfills and pollution don’t convince you to do something about your paper waste, then maybe learning about the massive amounts of oil being wasted to produce paper will.
It takes about 380 gallons of oil to produce a ton of paper. Seeing all the paper waste we create, you can see how much oil we’re consuming along with it.
If we were able to recycle one ton of paper, it would save 380 gallons of oil, 17 trees, and landfill space.
10. Digital Document Management Systems Can Save 1.4 Trillion lbs of Paper
In case you were wondering about the impact of switching to digital here’s an interesting stat: If digital document management systems were widely used, it could potentially save about 1.4 trillion pounds of paper.
Hard to imagine? This translates to roughly 728,000 trees.
And while going 100% paperless may not be plausible for your business, you could still be proactive in recycling the paper waste that is produced.
It’s estimated that 50% of office waste that goes to landfills is recyclable.
Why Going Digital Should Be in Your Near Future
Hopefully, this list of paper waste facts is an eye-opener for you as a consumer and business. Both sides play an incremental role in reducing paper waste (and other waste for that matter).
As a business, you can switch over to digital systems for HR documents, tax documents, newsletters, and any other forms of communication between your company and its customers and workers.
Invoicing and billing can also be paperless. Not only is this environmentally-friendly, but it’s also cost-effective. You won’t have to waste a lot of money on ink, envelopes, stamps, and paper.
Plus, the invoices are sent immediately, allowing your customers to pay you right away (if you accept debit/credit, PayPal, and other online payment options).
All of your paper documents can also be scanned to your computer systems for storage and simple file sharing. You’ll find this can enhance your business’s overall productivity and organization.
The number of files that are mishandled, untracked, mislabeled, or lost is significantly reduced when you switch to digital.
Foregoing the use of printers can also save you time, especially when it comes to delivering proposals, reports, and other long-winding documents. With digital document management, you can easily access the files you need from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
Save Time, Money, and the Earth
Sometimes, it’s the little things that count the most. If each person on this planet took accountability for themselves and how much waste they produce, the world would be a better place.
If you’re planning to turn your business into an eco-friendly workspace, let us know how you plan to do so in the comments!