A recent survey in the UK indicates that office workers print out “a paper mountain more than eight miles high every year.” The survey, commissioned by Fujitsu and Siemens, concluded that half of the pages printed in a typical office went unread.
According to a story in London newspaper The Telegraph (“UK offices 'print paper mountains', 10/15/07), the average office worker has grown used to “carefree printing habits.” Half of the workers surveyed admitted that they had printed out the same pages more than once by mistake.
According to the Telegraph story “Two in five workers (43 per cent) said they had picked up someone else's print-out by mistake and 8 per cent admitted to printing emails before they had read them.”
In other interesting results from the survey:
▪ Three out of four workers says that they have fixed paper jams themselves.
▪ Two thirds say that they have changed toner.
▪ A quarter said that they had walked away from an out of order printer, letting someone else fix it. (I’m sure someone is lying here)
▪ 17 percent admitted they just threw printed pieces away with no thought of recycling.
▪ Two-thirds of UK firms provided paper recycling bins, and almost half had ways for recycling confidential materials.
These are figures for the UK, but the US results are probably no different and may even be worse. If the UK has paper mountains, the US has Himalayas. And since the survey was based on self-reporting, you can be sure that the numbers look better than they really are.
Not surprisingly, two-thirds of all companies had no policies setting guidelines for what should be printed. It’s not simply a matter of “saving trees,” though that is important. It’s the enormous expense that unneeded printing costs in both paper and toner, and wear and tear on equipment. As has often been pointed out, printing and copying costs are one of the least controlled areas of office expense, and few companies have even a clear idea of what they are paying for it.