Results of Two Sides’ 2021 study ‘Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World’ shows there remain misconceptions about the environmental impact of the paper industry.
The study found that consumers still believe forests are decreasing in size, with 59% of UK consumers believing that European forests are shrinking. In reality, between 2005 and 2020, European forests grew by 58,390km2 – an area larger than Switzerland and equivalent to 1,500 football pitches of forest growth every day.
Just 9% of UK consumers understand that European forests are growing. 18-24 year olds (Gen Z) have the highest belief that forests are shrinking (69%).
Another common misconception about the paper industry is the amount of paper that’s recycled. The survey found that just 17% of UK consumers believe the paper recycling rate exceeds 60%. Furthermore, 46% believe that paper and paper packaging is wasteful. In reality, Europe’s paper recycling rate is currently 72%, with paper packaging even higher at 84%.
In 2019, a total of 57.5 million tonnes of paper was collected and recycled in Europe. 18-24 year olds have the biggest misconception relating to recycling, with just 12% believing the paper recycling rate exceeds 60%. 66% of consumers think only recycled paper should be used.
While the past year has seen the accelerated growth of electronic communication, the environmental impact of digital communications is often overlooked. Paper and print products are among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters at 0.8%, whereas the ICT industry accounts for 2.5-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040. Despite this, 66% of consumers surveyed for the report think electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper communication.