Words That Count

The end of the paper era is not quite at hand

For the past five years or so, we have been encouraged to ‘go paperless’ and it is something that I have tried to embrace. But I love paper. I love reading books and turning the pages carefully, releasing the unique smell of binding, glue and paper; it is as intoxicating as opium and almost as addictive. I will also admit to a more-than-passing infatuation with pretty stationery, but perhaps that’s a story for another day. Focusing back on going paperless; I was delighted when a colleague shared a brochure (ironically, via email) from an organization called Two Sides (www.twosides.info). Established by companies from the graphic communications supply chain in the UK, its mission is to educate the public about why the print- and paper-based communications medium is practical, attractive and, most importantly, sustainable. While we are told that paper is a wasteful product, it’s actually one of the most recycled products in the world. More than that, it’s one of the few truly sustainable products. Did you know? Electronic communication also has an environmental impact! And while logic dictates that it must have – I can’t say I had ever given it any thought. It turns out a report released in 2018 revealed that the ICT industry accounted for almost 3% of all greenhouse emissions and predictions are that it will rise to at least 14% by 2040. Hmm, not quite as environmentally friendly as we all imagined. According to the Global E-waste Monitor, in 2019, we produced 53,6 metric tons of e-waste, an average of 7,3kg per capita and it is projected to grow to 74,7 metric tons by 2030. And less than 20% of that was recycled. Forty-four metric tons of e-waste found its way onto landfill sites, or illegal dumps, making a significant contribution to the growing global pollution problem. The team at Two Sides point out that the move to an online-only society risks leaving our most vulnerable disconnected – the elderly, people living in rural areas and those living below the breadline. They add that paper has been the preferred medium for communication for over 2,000 years and even in today’s screen-obsessed world (yes, I know where you are reading this!), paper can’t be discounted . Utilised and disposed of responsibly, it is sustainable and has definitely not had its day. Thank goodness.