How much paper are the education, healthcare and legal industries wasting?

It’s not surprising that major sectors such as the education, healthcare, and legal industries are using an enormous amount of paper, however, many people agree that this kind of astronomical waste is unacceptable in our digital age. It is inexcusable for these industries to still use paper as technology now offers a more efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly solution.
two-business men wasting paper

Even as we move ever deeper into the digital age, large quantities of paper continue to be wasted every day by organisations across the globe. The education, healthcare and legal sectors naturally generate a constant flow of documents, and so are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of paper waste.

The cost of this waste can be measured financially, and in terms of environmental impact. Before we look at these costs and what you can do to reduce paper waste, let’s explore some statistics…

How much paper is wasted?

    A good definition of ‘wasted paper’ would be paper which did not need to be used and for which an alternative digital medium was available. By this definition, the amount of paper waste is staggering if one examines the statistics from each sector in the UK.

    The education sector

      Whether communicating with students, parents or other educators, the education sector generates a large amount of printed paper. As these statistics show, much of this could be avoided.

      • 92% of staff regularly print out emails (University Business)
      • 96% print on only one side of the paper (University Business)
      • Paper and card account for 59% of waste from primary schools and 53% from secondary schools (WRAP)
      • 96% of staff in the education sector store important documents both digitally and as a hard copy (University Business)


      The legal sector

        Access to and storage of legal documents will of course always be essential to law firms, but there are new and more efficient ways of using those documents.

        • Only 26% of legal firms solely use electronic copies of documents
        • 20% of legal firms use paper only
        • 33% of judges and 30% of HR managers use paper only copies of documents (Kyocera)
        • In 2013, the world’s first ‘paperless trial’ between Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich saved approximately five million sheets of paper through use of digital technology (Telegraph)


        The healthcare sector

          Between patient notes, prescriptions and reports the healthcare sector generates a staggering amount of paper waste, but the NHS is currently looking towards a paperless revolution.

          • The cost of storing paper records in the NHS is estimated at between £500,000 to £1m per trust (Computer Weekly)
          • According to PwC, adopting a paperless system could save the NHS £4.4bn (BBC News)
          • 71% of hospital workers are in favour of going paperless (Information Age)


          What are the real costs of paper waste?

            On average, a single office employee prints approximately 10,000 sheets of paper a year (Green Print). Even more alarmingly, it’s estimated that 45% of paper printed in offices globally ends up as general waste each year, accounting for more than a trillion sheets of paper.  In the UK, 80.6 million tonnes of printing and writing paper enters the waste stream annually, accounting for 24% of total waste (Select Legal).

            These large quantities of waste have a number of significant impacts. Firstly, there’s the financial cost to an organisation in terms of paper, ink and waste disposal. Over time these costs add up, and it’s estimated that UK businesses could collectively save more than £900m annually through smarter printing (Business Wings).

            Then there’s the cost to the environment of paper waste. Of the 30 million acres of forest destroyed annually, more than 40% is consumed by the global paper industry. (InfoActiv) Furthermore, the paper production industry accounts for 4% of all global energy consumption, consuming resources as well as contributing significantly to carbon emissions.

            How to reduce paper waste

              So having established the high costs of paper waste, what can businesses do to reduce or eliminate it?

              One way is to use ‘intelligent print management’ solutions, like those offered by Nuance. Our software allows you to gain greater control of printing within your organisation, through monitoring, optimisation and use of smartcard authorisation.

              Simple changes made using printing management can add up – for example, Citigroup was reportedly able to save £79,000 in five weeks by adopting double-sided printing (Environmental Defence Fund). Other changes to reduce print waste include instituting policies that ensure employees only print in colour when necessary, and discouraging unnecessary electronic/ paper document duplications.

              In some cases though, printing really isn’t necessary at all. Software like Nuance Power PDF can quickly digitise your documents and make them accessible via the cloud. Because most employees have smartphones or tablets, this reduces the need for printing or faxing dramatically, and provides easy remote access. Power PDF facilitates intuitive collaborative revision of documents, saving time and money, and you can easily convert into most popular document formats as required.

              By taking this dual approach of effective print management and digital document solutions, your organisation can save considerable amounts of time and money, whilst also boosting your green credentials. To find out more about the solutions that you can use to make this a reality, get in touch with us today.

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