Sat at my desk strewn with press releases, Post-it notes, old conference packs and magazines, a paper-less office seems like a distant ideal. Despite my best intentions, I compulsively print out documents and drafts and hoard paper work. It's official, though, I'm not alone. A new report from Lexmark entitled In Paper We Trust, states that a combination of human psychology, entrenched business practices and so-called labour saving devices, is preventing the paperless office from becoming a reality. In fact, the use of paper in businesses is on the increase.
According to Jane Cronin, SMB director at Lexmark, the cliché of the paperless office has been prevalent over the past 25 years and usually accompanies the launch of a new product promising to eliminate the need for paper. Despite this, she says, "...paper endures. More than that, it proliferates; paper use in business is increasing."
The purpose of the report is to examine why exactly this is the case and the theories range from our childhood need to be able to touch things to our grown up paranoia of computers crashing and all our hard work disappearing into the ether.
Report contributor Dr Terence Jackson says that although paper is decreasing in some areas of business, "new technology is actually increasing the number of printed documents overall, rather than decreasing it. This is an important message for anyone who considers that technology holds the key to reducing the business use of paper".
When it comes to technology driving paper use, email, PDAs and mobile phones are all offenders. As PDAs and mobiles are increasingly used to transmit data this is likely to be printed out as their screens are too small to comfortably read long portions of text.
The negative environmental impact of this ever increasing paper consumption is obvious but is there any hope? Ironically, the report offers some comfort in the shape of future technologies: two in particular, which it credits as having the potential to reduce the amount of paper used by both businesses and consumers: electronic paper and electronic document management.
It states: "Electronic paper has the potential to be almost as thin as conventional paper and yet display fixed or moving images, often in colour, with very low power requirements. It could nearly be as flexible as paper is today, and may eventually replace books, newspapers, magazines and various signs and labels, cutting down considerably on the amount of paper that is both used and discarded on a daily basis."
Wrap turns to technology to break through sludge barrier
Paper mill sludge is the main waste product from the manufacture of white recycled papers, and can represent as much as 40% of the material input in the production of higher quality paper grades. In total, UK mills generate around one million tonnes of sludge per annum, and end uses for this material have been limited. As a result, most of the sludge is either landfilled, land-spread or incinerated.
However, a project to develop the opportunities for recycling paper mill sludge into new products is being funded by the Waste a