FAQ – What are the costs of Paper?

Paper Cost

Paper is everywhere.  One of the benefits of digital transactions is the mitigation of the use of paper. Here are some facts and figures about paper.  Here we have stitched together several articles and more that help shed light on paper.

The 3 E’s: Economical, Environmental, Efficient

Are you a paper pusher? The typical workplace is hooked on the stuff, with some shocking statistics.

  • The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.
  • The United States alone, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, consumes 30% of the world’s paper.
  • Over 40% of wood pulp goes toward the production of paper.
  • Printing and writing paper equals about one-half of U.S. paper production.
  • The costs of using paper in the office can run 13 to 31 times the cost of purchasing the paper in the first place!

Economical: Saving paper saves money

You’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? My office doesn’t spend much on paper.” But what most people don’t realize is that the cost of buying paper is just the tip of the paper iceberg. For each sheet of paper used, a company incurs not only purchasing costs, but also storage, copying, printing, postage, disposal, and recycling—and it adds up. A recent Minnesota study estimates that associated paper costs could be as much as 31 times the purchasing costs (not including labor). So, that ream of paper that you paid $5 for really could cost up to $155!

  • Citigroup, a large financial services company, determined that if each employee used double-sided copying to conserve just one sheet of paper each week, the firm would save $700,000 each year.
  • Bank of America cut its paper consumption by 25% in two years by increasing the use of on-line forms and reports, e-mail, double-sided copying, and lighter-weight paper.

Environmental: Saving paper reduces our impact

Paper is an office necessity for some essential tasks, but it has an environmental cost. Creating paper from trees requires a lot of natural resources: trees, water, and energy.

  • It takes more than 1½ cups of water to make one sheet of paper. (Picture a typical soda can.)
  • Over 40% of wood pulp goes toward the production of paper.
  • Reducing paper use reduces greenhouse gases: 400 reams of paper is like 1.25 acres of pine forest absorbing carbon for a year.
  • Even with recycling efforts, paper makes up over 25% of Minnesota’s garbage—we’re throwing away a lot of resources!

Efficient: Saving paper increases efficiency

Paperwork! It brings to mind filling out unnecessarily complicated forms. Electronic forms can now make that job easier and more efficient. Businesses that have converted to electronic forms and filing systems have found that it takes less time to both find and process information. This doesn’t mean that electronic forms should replace all paper. In some instances, paper will be the best tool, but most businesses find that reducing their paper use increases their efficiency. Whenever we have fewer sheets of paper in our homes and offices, we spend less time looking for those that are misplaced or lost.

  • Success story: When Wilderness Inquiry moved its registration forms online, they found boosts in productivity and customer satisfaction.

Health Impact:

Some thermal papers are coated with BPA, a chemical considered to be an endocrine disruptor. This material can contaminate recycled paper.[4][5] BPA can transfer readily to the skin in small amounts:

When taking hold of a receipt consisting of thermal printing paper for five seconds, roughly 1 μg BPA (0.2–0.6 μg) was transferred to the forefinger and the middle finger if the skin was rather dry, and about ten times more than this if these fingers were wet or very greasy. Exposure to a person who repeatedly touches thermal printer paper for about ten hours per day, such as at a cash register, could reach 71 micrograms per day, which is 42 times less than the present tolerable daily intake (TDI).[6]

The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is used for thermal paper coatings because of its stability and heat-resistance. This allows inkless printing for receipts from cash registers. People who often get in contact with BPA coated receipts do have a higher level of BPA in their bodies than people with average contact. Therefore, the New York Suffolk County signed a resolution to ban BPA in thermal receipt papers. Violation of this new law, the “Safer Sales Slip Act”, involves a 500 USD penalty. One year after having been filed in the Office of the State Secretary, the new law will come into force.

More Facts

  • The average worker in an office uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually.
  • It can cost up to 31 times the original cost to send information on paper (printing, copying, postage, storage, filing, recycling, etc.).
  • 7.5 billion documents are created and 15 trillion copies are made each year.
  • The average four drawer cabinet costs about $25,000 to fill and $2,000 per year to maintain.

At last, a good 2012 study of the cost of paper forms

the average cost per form is $4.56, but for 20% of respondents the cost per form is $10 or moreAIIM published a whitepaper in 2012 that includes the results of a survey they conducted with 477  of its 64,000 community members. We like it because the survey was conducted by an objective non-profit organization, it includes all the demographics, and it excludes extreme answers and the responses of companies that are too small or have a conflict of interest.

“However, the costs mount dramatically once the forms have been completed by the user, and need to be transported safely, securely and quickly to the start of the appropriate process, wherever that may be, and whether or not it includes a scanning and capture element.

In the AIIM survey mentioned earlier, we asked respondents to estimate how much it costs them, per document or form, in printing, distribution, mailing, collection and sorting, prior to either scanning or paper-based processing. Eliminating 14 responses of over $75 per form (which may well be valid for certain very specialized applications or remote locations), the average cost per form is $4.56. The median (mid-point) is $2.00, but for 20% of respondents the cost per form is $10 or more.”

Calculate the cost of paper forms yourself

One mobile forms company has made available an interesting calculator you can use to estimate the costs of paper forms in your own situation — not just in dollars but in trees and pounds of carbon as well. The calculator is attributed to a university institute, and the dollar calculations hinge on estimating how long it takes to key data from a paper form into a computer.

“The primary cost savings comes from not having to reenter paper forms data into a computer system. On average, you can save from $0.51 per page if using offshore contractors to reenter form data, to $1.88 or more if using your own employees.”

The nice thing is that you don’t need to accept this claim, because the factors are all transparent and you can enter your own assumptions into the calculator. But we do wonder how accurately most companies can estimate the key metric at the heart of the calculator: “Average time in minutes to enter the answers to an average form question into a computer system including wasted time”.

Cost drivers

In a separate survey conducted in May-June 2013, AIIM quantified which were the ‘biggest issues’ caused by paper-based processes. The most common complaints were around re-keying data and filing, storing and searching for paper records, which are also major cost drivers for paper forms.

Problems with paper forms

Sources © AIIM 2013 www.aiim.org and available at aiim.org/research:

Here is whitepaper


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