British Office Workers 'Addicted' to Paper

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

LONDON, UK, August 2010 - A survey of 1,000 U.K. office workers has found that efforts to make office paper use more efficient are proceeding sluggishly at best, wasting huge amounts of resources and stymieing IT managers' attempts to rein in energy and paper use.

The survey, conducted by research firm Loudhouse on behalf of Kyocera, found that the average employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and as many as 6,800 of those sheets are wasted.

On top of piles of unneeded print jobs, the survey found employees feeling less concerned about the environment and printing more often – a sign that 'green fatigue' is taking its toll on participation in environmental and conservation initiatives.

Only 68 percent of respondents said they were personally concerned about the environment in this year's survey, down from a high of 77 percent in 2008. Kyocera and Loudhouse have conducted this study for three of the last four years.

Despite a drop in environmental concern, 70 percent of IT managers surveyed said that their companies could do a better job encouraging workers to print smarter, largely through employee education about the cost benefits of more efficient printing.

And printing issues constitute a huge time-suck for IT managers: The average IT department spends one-third of its time on dealing with office printing, and nearly one-quarter of respondents say they spend 50 to 100 percent of their time on printing.

But IT managers also see progress happening in encouraging greener printing practices. About 40 percent said they are getting more executive support in putting green printing on the IT agenda, incorporating environmental policies into the network, and encouraging workers to print less.

A number of green printing policies are becoming more common in corporate offices, according to the workers surveyed. In-office recycling is commonplace, with 78 percent of companies encouraging paper recycling. And those ubiquitous email footers urging you to "Consider the environment before printing this message" have made their way into 55 percent of the companies surveyed.

The most common policies that have been embraced by companies are loose policies governing duplex and color versus black-and-white printing. Only 22 percent of firms have implemented password- or card-controlled printing, which allows IT or office managers to track paper and printer use on an individual basis.

As a result, there is still an inordinate amount of paper wasted by the average worker: Of the 10,000 or so pages printed per employee per year, as many as 6,800 of those sheets are thrown away or recycled. The chart below breaks down where workers are wasting the most paper.

A question of mine that this survey has not answered is as to how many of those pages where just printed on one side and could have been used again, for a variety of uses, aside from making paper aeroplanes, such as as notepaper, before finally going the recycling route.

It would seem that people just cannot think about printing double sided.

I know that it is so much easier just to hit “print” without having to go into “properties” and setting it to enable double-sided printing and many people seem to not have the few extra minutes to do that.

The full research report is available for download [PDF] from

© 2010