Research conducted by Loudhouse has shown that office printing volumes continue to increase in the UK, while strategies to reduce the cost and waste associated with it remain largely undefined. 77% of those asked said their print volumes had increased or stayed the same in the past twelve months.

The survey into attitudes to printing and the environment among UK office staff and IT Managers, shows that the average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year, of which 6,800 are considered to be “wasted”. Culprits for wasted paper include failing to use the duplex function, leaving printouts forgotten on the printer and unnecessarily printing duplicate documents.

Given the above it is unsurprising that 39% of respondents felt that they could print less than they currently do. Among IT managers, many of whom are at the coal face of cost reduction measures, 70% felt that their organisation could operate a greener and more efficient print policy.

40% of respondents described themselves as “paper people”, preferring to read documents on paper rather than on screen, indicating that despite the increasing availability of alternative technology such as tablet PCs and e-readers our love affair with the printed page is far from over.

The survey also showed that paper recycling remains the dominant approach to mitigating the impact of printing, with 78% of organisations ensuring that they have facilities available. The second most popular tactic was the inclusion of “think green, do you need to print this out” footers on emails, with 55% of organisations endorsing this approach.

However, the survey also found that 58% of people responded negatively to such entreaties, branding them “ineffective” at best, and “pointless and patronising” at worst. A more stringent approach such as an official print policy ranked, much lower, at 24% while proximity based printing systems were a feature in only 22% of organisations.

When asked about printing personal documents on company devices, 76% of respondents admitted to doing so, with 6% printing out non-work related documents every day. The main reason is convenience, although 28% of respondents also unsurprisingly cited the fact that printing in the office is “free”.

Increased paper consumption is a cause for concern from both financial and environmental standpoints. Our survey shows that there is a will among office workers and IT Managers to reduce the amount of printing carried out, but there seems to be a lack of clarity about the way. There are technological solutions to problems such as unnecessary simplex printing and forgotten printouts which eliminate human error, but levels of adoption seem to be low.

Organisations need to stop relying on the goodwill of their employees to reduce printing levels, and start implementing stricter policies and technologies to take control of this costly and wasteful activity.