Managing Paper Waste in Business Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1586 Words
Date:  2022-10-25


Paper is a significant invention in the course of human civilization. The multiple forms of paper products reflect the important role the industry plays in global development. In an era of increased resource unsustainability, businesses should have environmental sound practices. Lundberg and Wallin observe that organization waste streams include the use of excess materials and poor resource use (1). Thus, there is a need to overcome the challenge through waste management methods of sustainable development. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a single employee working in an average office generates an approximate 350 pounds of wastepaper annually (Rillen and Ross 1). The statistics demonstrates that the reduction of paper waste is a business economics question and an environmental ethical consideration. Business ethics involves moral principles and decision-making, issues of governance, and the code of conduct (Goel and Ramanathan 49). Consequently, business actions are judged by their effectiveness and efficiency and more so by morality (Wozniak 304). The adoption of reduction, reuse, and inventory control strategies in businesses can play a significant role in paper use reduction.

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The paper industry is one of the most profitable business ventures in America today. Smith estimates that in each given year, there are over 2 billion textbooks printed and up to 24 million newspapers (35). These statistics show the massive levels of paper resources needed to sustain this colossal production. According to a report developed by the Paperless Project in the United States, at consumption levels, companies spend more than a sum of $120 billion a year on their printing budgets (Smith 37). In addition, the report reveals that if a paper calamity struck such as lack of access to the product, more than 70% businesses would go out of operations in three weeks (Smith 37). Therefore, the supply of paper appears to be the lifeline of many business ventures. Standard Charted Bank (SCB) assumes that if a company uses about 56,000 reams of A4 reams of paper in a year, the paper consumption costs run up to $3 million (10). These costs including paper, printing, energy consumption, and capital depreciation are usually invisible yet so significant.

The paper industry is currently facing varying challenges. Firstly, there is a growing pressure by interest groups to adopt sustainable practices (Lundberg and Wallin 1). The pressure is ordinarily associated with customer demands and legislative needs to minimize environmental impact (Thompson). Secondly, there is an internal need to reduce running costs due to a global production overcapacity and rising costs in raw materials and energy (Thompson). Therefore, a sustainable business must have reasonable production overhead costs. Given these two realities, waste management has become a critical component of strategic planning in businesses. In the background of the call for paper-waste-reduction by producers and consumer is a growing concern on environment.

Environmental Impacts

The paper industry primarily depends on a natural resource supply chain. In particular, estimates show that an approximate one-third of the materials that go in the manufacturing of paper comes from trees. According to SCB, wood measures reveals that a mixture of twenty-four softwood and hardwood trees, 40 feet tall and six to eight inches in diameter are needed to produce a ton of printing paper (9). Meeting a national demand for paper thus means chopping a significant amount of trees each year. An environmental activist group called Waste-free Mail reported that Americans use 2 pounds of paper per head each day which translates to more than 90 million tons of paper annually (Smith 28). When these statistics are translated into environment loss, it emerges that approximately 3.7 million trees are harvested to meet the annual paper demand (Smith 28). Thus, paper extraction begins at the point of forest destruction.

The processing, transportation, use, and disposal of paper have adverse environmental consequences. SCB (9) illustrates that processing 400 reams of A4 papers equals to a 0.08 full load of a garbage truck, a half a year's emission for a car, and loss of 20, 520 gallons of water (9). Paper processing and distribution system contribute to air and water pollution and the rise in global warming. For example, the solid waste includes sludge from factories containing waterborne wastes, carbon dioxide from burned fossil fuels, and methane from decomposing paper landfills (SCB 9). Arguably, paper production and consumption result in an extensive system of ecological degradation.

Paper Waste Reduction Strategies

There is a growing unanimity across the business world that the current production and use rate of paper is unsustainable. This reality is becoming more apparent among industries whose paper uptake rate is high. Based on internal assessments of prevailing rates of paper use, businesses can choose the reduction, reuse, and inventory control methods to reduce paper waste. Ideally, the goal of reduction is to introduce a paperless ethical business system. In reduction, businesses can alter how they purchase, manufacture, and use paper materials (Smith 42). Simple rules that businesses can adopt include printing only when necessary. More so, organizations can change their communication methods by substituting paper with electronic emails and database.

A case study on how a company can reduce their paper purchase and use practices is evident at Walter Disney Company a media corporation. Before 2010, the company printed 50 million copies of books and 30 million magazines each year (Gunther). These figures translate to a huge paper budget and subsequent paper waste. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that when the company deliberately adopted a policy prescription from paper to digital media it saved up to 1.9 million annually (Smith 31). More so, the company uses strategic sourcing to ensure environmental consciousness in sourcing raw materials. For example, the company changed its procurement practices by avoiding paper sourced from high carbon forest (Gunther). Such reduction strategies demonstrate the impact of paper reduction within and beyond the business environment.

Furthermore, business entities can adopt a reuse policy. It is possible to stretch the usage time for paper products by postponing the disposal date (Lundberg and Wallin 64). In this case, a corporate may decide to either recover spent papers or change how they are used. A simple procedure for re-using may involve collecting newspapers and used papers for recycling. In so doing, a business can reduce the number of papers it disposes to end up in the landfill. Furthermore, an incentive paper waste reduction policy can be adopted where rewards are offered to create awareness and motivation for paper re-usage (Lundberg and Wallin 69). In so doing, creativity in recycling and departmental competition in waste reduction can be encouraged. Limited Brands Inc. provides a case study for the re-use strategy. Having experienced high costs in packaging and limited use of paper boxes, the company altered the design of its cardboard boxes to allow multiple applications of a single packaging box (Smith 48). The action prevented the disposal of 87 tons of the cardboard while reducing operational cost (Smith 48). Consequently, paper re-using increases paper output and decreases input in business operations.

Lastly, companies can improve their paper handling and inventory control practices. Firstly, the method utilizes procedures for handling surplus paper to oversee storage or distribution (Lundberg and Wallin 69). Secondly, it allows for decision-making that takes into consideration existing stocks in purchasing decisions (Lundberg and Wallin 1). A key strategy under the inventory control method is establishing a corporate exchange system for paper products. This method ensures there are a transfer and share of paper usability. In this case, chain stores can redistribute their paper stocks according to branch demand to minimize stockpiling and maximize utilization. EPA highlights the success story of the U.S Postal Services in Alabama District designed a swap program in which postmasters exchange excess paper supplies hence creating efficiency in use, and thus reduced wastage. Paper inventory management increases the accuracy of stock data and encourages strategic sharing.


In summary, it is possible to achieve a strategic reduction in paper waste using reduction, reuse, and inventory control strategies in businesses. Statistics show that production and consumption levels in the paper industry are immense. Consequently, the paper industry contributes to environmental pollution, biodiversity loss, and global warming leading to ethical concerns. In reducing paper usage, a business can print on a needs basis and utilize technology-based communication and records management. Besides, businesses can motivate workers to consider paper re-use recycling and use modification. More so, enterprises can improve their paper management inventory control to make informed purchase and distribution choices. Progressively, business sustainability will depend on the ability to integrate environmental ethics in production, consumption, and disposal systems.

Works Cited

Goel, Mridula, and Preeti E. Ramanathan. "Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility-is there a Dividing Line?." Procedia Economics and Finance, vol.11, 2014, pp.49-59.

Gunther, Marc. "Disney's Radical New Paper Policy to Have Major Impact." Green Biz. Retrieved from: Accessed 29 November 2018.

Lundberg, Madeleine., and Casper, Wallin. "Reducing Paper Waste to Improve Resource Efficiency at a Swedish Printing and Packaging Company." Master Thesis, Chalmers University of Technology. Retrieved from:

Smith, Maureen. "The US Paper Industry and Sustainable Production: An Argument for Restructuring." Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2016.

Standard Chartered Bank. (SCB). "Reducing and Eliminating Paper Consumption. A Best Practice Guide for Corporate Offices: Shanghai, China." May 2010. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. "Challenges for the Printing Industry Globally in 2015." (2015). Retrieved from: Accessed 29 November 2018.

Wozniak, Anna. "The Missing Subject Found in the Subject who does the Thinking: Kierkegaard, the Ethical and the Subjectivity of the Critical Theorists." Business Ethics: A European Review, vol.20. no.3, 2011, pp.304-315.

Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA). "Success Stories: Federal Government." Retrieved from: Accessed 29 November 2018.

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