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Rethinking recycling: How businesses can adopt in-office paper recycling to make real change

Rethinking recycling: How businesses can adopt in-office paper recycling to make real change

In 2015, a group of scientific researchers from Yale made an interesting discovery. By using new and improved methods of detecting tree density, they calculated that previous estimates of tree numbers on earth were highly inaccurate. Instead of 400 billion trees, or 50 trees for every human being, they calculated that the planet is actually home to over three trillion trees, which is 422 per human head.

However, this revised number still leaves the planet with 46% fewer trees than it had before the process of deforestation began around 10,000 years ago. Despite reforestation efforts, there are now fewer trees on earth than at any time in human history. But how do we begin to reverse a decline that began in the Ice Age? 

As with almost any seemingly unsurmountable challenge, its best to start with small steps. As both individuals and businesses, we are accustomed to making small, incremental changes when making or adopting sustainability policies. For example, at home, we may already be separating our rubbish into different bins or perhaps some are even considering buying a hybrid car. At work we are often encouraged to recycle more and consider whether we need to print the likes of emails.

While these are all important steps, the change in behaviour – and the change in thinking – is small. Back in 2015, the Yale researchers estimated that we still face a net loss of around 10 billion trees per annum. In fact, the University of Maryland announced that in 2019, the world lost over 11.9 million hectares of tree cover. That’s the equivalent of losing an entire American football pitch of primary forest every 6 seconds for the entire year. 

With paper still in high demand, in both enterprise and home settings, we need to think bigger. Currently, many businesses across the world recycle paper through an extensive process that requires transporting used paper from the office to a papermaking (recycling) facility. This is both laborious and expensive, not to mention a drain on energy and fuel, and worse, a lot of businesses don’t recycle paper at all. 

While the European Paper Recycling Council estimates that paper recycling in Europe increased from 71.7% in 2018 to 72% in 2019, there’s still a long way to go. So, where do we start and why is it so important?  

Focusing on sustainability 

For businesses, incorporating greener measures and better recycling measures has numerous benefits. Aside from the obvious environmental advantages, they would also be future proofing themselves by making their offices smarter and better equipped for a world which is increasingly focused on business sustainability. 

For those wishing to attract and retain the best talent in the future, ensuring the company has green credentials is of high importance. In fact, our recent research shows that a significant 81% of employees say the environmental and social impact of their employer is important. A further 32% go so far as to say it’s one of the primary things they look for in an employer. 

When thinking about tech, the statistics also show that 83% of employees believe the use of “green technology” to improve the environmental and social impact of businesses is important. 

Yet, despite the eco expectations of the workforce, only 24% of employees believe that meeting environmental and social impact targets is a priority for businesses. 

Bringing recycling in-house

One alternative is to bring the recycling process in-house, allowing businesses to future-proof their offices and take control of their paper supplies. This also represents a much more fundamental transition in the way we think about paper waste – shifting away from small, individual actions, towards larger and more transformative, organisational change.

Businesses can already make steps towards this goal by investing in an in-office paper-making system, which uses a dry process (no water required) to turn used paper from securely shredded waste paper into new paper. While this may sound like a cumbersome process, one existing solution operates on-demand, producing a piece of new paper in as little as three minutes. That ladders up to 12 A4 sheets per minute, 720 sheets per hour, or 5,760 sheets per 8-hour working day.

An in-house paper recycler also helps organisations cut down CO2 emissions, as paper waste no longer needs to be transported off site. Additionally, traditional recycling uses vast amounts of another precious natural resource – water. However, PaperLab uses virtually no water to produce new paper, only enough to keep the product humid, therefore businesses can securely destroy sensitive information, upcycle it into new paper while making a conscious effort to protect the environment and join the circular economy.

This in-house recycling method is an example of closed loop recycling, where little to nothing is wasted. If more organisations adopt similar closed loop recycling methods, reforestation can continue to progress and succeed at a much faster rate.

A new approach

We need to think differently about how we recycle. Small steps don’t add up to the big change required to reverse the ongoing and devastating effects of deforestation. 

Technology has the power to make it easier and much more viable for companies to recycle paper waste. One centralised system also takes the pressure off individual employees and puts the responsibility back on the business to take action and securely gain control of paper supplies.

Written by Daniel Quelch, Sustainability Manager at Epson

Daniel Quelch, Sustainability Manager at Epson

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