Waste paper makes uncomfortable reading

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency and Forestry Commission are among organisations given the thumb-down by a new report on efficient use of paper.


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More than a few organisations and public bodies that strive to be green have been left red-faced following the publication of a new “paper efficiency” scorecard. The European Environmental Paper Network assessed the “largest institutional users of paper” in the UK, using publicly available information and questionnaires completed by some of those involved. Scores were calculated by adding together assessments of transparency (35%), positive paper policies (25%), actions taken to increase efficiency (20%) and measured progress in reducing paper volumes (20%). The results make for some interesting reading.


Government bodies and banks generally came out best, with the likes of the Co-operative Bank and Scottish parliament scoring 89 out of 100. The Co-op cut paper use by 71% when it moved to a new headquarters and left 3,000 filing cabinets behind and switched to digital mail. Some of the retailers, notably Marks & Spencer (91), Sainsbury’s (85) and Argos (77), were also among the “high flyers”.


However, there were many more organisations where the “paper efficiency egg has yet to crack”, explained the EEPN co-ordinator Mandy Haggith. “The high flyers have policies to reduce wasteful paper use, they know how much they use, they are taking action to eliminate unnecessary paper use and to increase efficiency. They are also happy to talk about how much money they are saving as a result.” But a “majority of the organisations surveyed are just starting to think about the issue of wasteful paper use”.


This seems to include the likes of the Environment Agency (48), the Department for Environment (54), Royal Mail (36) and even the Forestry Commission (23). Utility companies had some of the worst scores, with SSE bottom of the pile with 3.


Haggith said some organisations do not want to talk about paper, with many not likely to know levels of paper use, or how much a wasteful policy could be costing economically and environmentally.


Production and use of paper is responsible for more than 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than aviation. The waste contractor Viridor said it had helped customers recover 670,000 tonnes of paper and card in 2012/13, saving 540,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. “By anyone’s measure, this shows the real benefits of recycling paper and card and the significant effect that it can have in reducing carbon emissions across supply chains,” said its head of sustainable business, Andrew Whitehorn.