Electronic equipment has been characterised as a fast growing category of municipal solid waste. Experts predict businesses will be replacing equipment more often in the future, leading to greater waste.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2005, discarded electronics totaled about 2 million tons. It’s estimated that only about 15 to 20 percent of this was recycled. Since electronic equipment contains toxic chemicals, this can pose health and environmental risks, particularly in landfills where toxins may leak into the soil and ground water.

Recent surveys show that many of us waste up to 10 per cent of what we print in the office, with up to 17 per cent of printed material consisting of e-mails and Web page print outs and 25 per cent of colour print being ‘accidental’. Paper usage is rising by around 20% every year, with the average office worker using approximately 50 sheets of paper every day in the typical office. That is aside from other paper waste such as newspapers and magazines that they may read.

Experience shows that in a best practice small office, employees will use as little as 15 sheets of paper a day compared to a less resourceful office where each person can squander a staggering 100 sheets of paper per day. This means that many companies have the potential to reduce costs and help reduce environmental damage. Cutting down on paper usage would help to reduce the 5 million tonnes of printing and writing papers UK businesses are estimated to throw away each year.

Wasting paper is not only a drain on our environment but is also a burden on most companies’ bottom line—they are wasting money with every piece of paper they use needlessly. Using the right software can help users to reduce print volumes, convert colour to black and white, analyse their usage and eliminate waste. While this approach can save businesses up to 60 per cent of their printing costs, it still doesn’t go far enough. For the ultimate in cost cutting and environmentally-friendly computing, companies should look at alternative document sharing methods—such as scanning.

It’s not just large organisations which can benefit from scanning. In a recent independent survey carried out on digital document management systems and their users, it was found that SMEs could save up to two hours per day in time lost from searching for documents. Add to this the savings made by reduced printing, which could save up to 75% on paper and toner costs—not to mention the benefits to the environment—and the attraction of the paperless office becomes all the more apparent.

Scan-to-PDF is a requirement of a fast-growing number of business users wanting to do with their documents. The popularity of PDF is slowly replacing traditional scanned file formats like BMP, TIFF and JPEG for sharing, archiving and other purposes. One reason is that all scanning software supplied with the major makes of scanners now save scans as PDF files. Another is that PDFs are generally smaller in file size, making them suitable for e-mailing and Web usage. Another is that they’re more secure. And another is that they’re searchable. Need I go on?