Fact Finder: Is Paper Bad For The Environment?

A recent study from Two Sides ‘Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World’ reveals changing consumer perceptions towards print, paper, paper packaging and tissue products.

As one of the world’s oldest and universally used materials, the 2021 study shows that, whilst paper retains its position as a vital communication and packaging material, as environmental awareness intensifies, and alternative digital channels become prevalent there are many misconceptions towards the environmental impact of the paper industry.

Myth: Paper products are destroying our forests
The study found that a large proportion (59%) of consumers believe European forests are decreasing in size. In reality, the past 15 years have seen these forests grow by an impressive area - larger than Switzerland, the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches worth of growth every day. Other findings relating to forest growth include:

  • Only 9% of UK consumers understand that European forests are growing.
  • Whilst more people believe forests are growing (compared to 4% in 2013), there is still a significant gap in understanding.
  • 18-24 year olds (Gen Z) hold the greatest belief that forests are shrinking (69%).

Myth: Paper products are wasteful
Another common mistaken belief about the paper industry is the amount of paper that’s recycled. The survey found only 17% of UK consumers believed paper recycling rate exceeded 60%. Additionally, 46% believe that paper and paper packaging is wasteful. In truth, Europe’s paper recycling rate is currently standing strong at 72% with paper packaging out performing and achieving a rate of 84%.

  • In 2019, 57.5 million tonnes of paper was collected and recycled in Europe.
  • Gen Z consumer groups again hold the biggest false impression relating to recycling, with only 12% believing the paper recycling rate exceeds 60%.
  • 66% of consumers think only recycled paper should be used.

Myth: Paper is more damaging to the environment than electronic communication
The changes seen in the past year has accelerated the growth of the digital and electronic communication landscape, with meetings, events and day-to-day business progressively being conducted online and consumers relying more on online news. Convenience and the ability for people to work at home are undoubtedly key drivers in this shift, however the environmental impact of digital communications is often overlooked.

Paper and print products are among the lowest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions at 0.8%. The ICT industry on the other hand accounts for 2.5-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040. Despite this, 66% of consumers surveyed in the report believe e-communication as more environmentally friendly than paper communication.

Two Sides, a not-for-profit organisation, aspire to ensure that, in a world of scarce resources, Print and Paper’s unique recyclable and renewable qualities can be enjoyed for generations to come. Two Sides, launched their Love Paper campaign in 2012 as a global consumer-focused drive to raise awareness and increase understanding of the sustainability and attractiveness of print, paper and paper-based packaging.
We take our duty to significantly reduce our impact on the environment extremely seriously and actively promote the efficient use of materials and resources throughout our facility including water, electricity, raw materials and other resources, particularly those that are non-renewable.

If you would like more information on our environmental and sustainability credentials, or would like some assistance with taking a more eco-friendly approach to your campaign get in touch today on 0208 376 4300 or drop us a message at contact@mba-group.com.