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Minimising consumption of paper and consumables

Offices are great users of consumables such as:

  • paper and writing supplies, like pens, pencils, folders and adhesives
  • mailing supplies, like envelopes, shipping boxes and plastic wrap
  • toner or ink cartridges
  • cleaning items
  • commercial bathroom supplies, including soap, hand towels and tissues.

The above items, frequently referred to as office supplies, are typically used by employees and businesses and must be replaced often. Among these, paper is one of the most significant items for both the consumption of raw material like cellulose virgin pulp from trees, and the large amounts of energy needed for the production process.

The minimisation of consumption can be achieved by establishing procedures that drastically reduce the use of paper and other consumables related to printing processes and by implementing green public procurement criteria. For useful extra guidance, see Managing and minimising waste production.

There are a number of easy and practical actions that will reduce the consumption of paper:

  • Avoid printing when possible and add a note in emails reminding recipients to think before printing.
  • Print double-sided or two pages to each page of A4.
  • Reduce the number of printers by centralising their location.
  • Give printing access codes to employees so printing activity can be monitored.
  • Designate one printer for draft printing and keep it loaded with scrap paper.
  • Avoid using paper thicker than 80 gsm.
  • Reuse scrap paper for internal use.
  • Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions.

Upper management should encourage a culture of minimising consumption. Methods include giving employees their own refillable stationery, like pens, highlighters and similar items with their name on. A central stationery cupboard could be implemented so that items are reused rather than reordered. Stationery items are often left unused in one department or desk when someone elsewhere in the building could be using them.

Products should be renewable or made of 100 per cent recycled materials. In reference to paper purchased, used and later wasted or recycled, the type of pulp used also makes a difference. The most desirable and less environmentally damaging is paper made from unbleached pulp and from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper.

Employees can play a significant role in the minimisation of consumption, so guides and training can be provided to make sure they are choosing the right products.

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