Although many people automatically connect paper-free processes with the internet – the concept of a paperless society actually started life over half a century ago – before the emergence of the World Wide Web and the plethora of gadgets that we now use to access it. Back then, futurists predicted that technology would eventually see the demise of paper record keeping and reading.
Move forward to the present day and the majority of us are communicating by email – should we need a statement from our bank, supplier or any other company, we no longer need a paper copy; PDF’s can be used to store and reference the information that we need quickly, and with minimal fuss. Clearly, great strides are being taken towards the achievement of a paperless society – however, it’s also fair to say that we could collectively be doing much more in order to fully realise the concept.
A recent estimation by electronic document management research company InfoTrends revealed that US local, state and federal governments use 122 billion sheets of paper – with individuals’ share totally around 400 sheets. On average, US paper consumption amounts to more than 748 pounds per person – with much of it deemed as being completely unnecessary. Recent studies into UK usage have indicated that the average office worker uses 833 sheets of paper (20 reams of A4 paper) per month – costing a business £117.20 per person per year.
The infographic below illustrates paper usage – and the resources needed by the manufacturers who produce it. Perhaps more importantly, it also highlights the strategies that businesses and governments are implementing in a bid to reduce paper consumption levels.
Although we may not see an entirely paperless society in the near future – with determination, we can all become less wasteful.
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Source: A paperless society? Not so fast / Nicholas A. Basbanes (Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2013)