The Environmental Impact of Paper and Ink

 going paperless

Paper and ink documents require a huge amount of resources and energy, as opposed to their digitalised counterparts which can be created, stored and accessed with zero paper or chemicals. Even though ink printers are common, they are worse for the environment than many realise. Read more and discover the true environmental cost of paper and ink printing.


When it comes to inks, especially litho inks, there are some main areas of concern - the first is heavy metals. Certain pigments contain copper, zinc and barium which can be hazardous to the environment and workers’ health. In general metallic and fluorescent inks can be toxic. Metallic inks do not decompose easily and the heavy metal elements cause problems by seeping into groundwater and other natural areas. Petroleum based inks emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they dry. Dangerous to humans and a contributor to global warming, this comes from web based printing such as heatset.

Soya can typically be found in oil, sheet-fed inks. Normally made up of two parts linseed, one part Soya, such inks reduce worker and environmental hazards due to being vegetable oil based. However, the expansion of the Soya industry is something that is controversial in itself. Waste ink can be recycled and made into low grade fuel, or mixed to form black ink and reused. However ink is toxic, so much so it is usually put in concrete in special hazardous waste landfill sites.



Everywhere we go, there is paper. From newspapers to magazines, billboards and posters – it is unavoidable. However, paper has more of an impact upon the environment than many would believe.

Over 30 million acres of forest is destroyed annually with 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber used for paper production. Pulpwood plantations and mills also endanger and destroy natural habitats of species that live in these forests.

The entire lifecycle of paper is environmentally damaging. Starting with a tree being cut down and ending in being burnt, which emits carbon dioxide. When it decomposes in a landfill it also emits the greenhouse gas methane.


Switching to a paperless office, by digitalising all physical paper documents, businesses can save money and contribute to a healthier environment. With 10 million tonnes of paper used per year, digital operations not only drastically reduce this figure, it also allows for increased productivity and a boost in staff morale – with less time spent on menial tasks such as searching for documents.

Switching to digital operations can help companies struggling for office space. Paperless offices also make it easier to increase operations, with online document services allowing quick and easy access to scanned items.

Did you know how much paper and ink can affect the environment? Are you now considering joining the paperless revolution? Continue reading about paperless office solutions.

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