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Abstract

This paper explores the factors potentially responsible for the overconsumption of office paper and estimates the adverse environmental and economic impact of overconsumption. Data were collected from the employees of selected higher educational institutions in Oman. Technical factors, workplace environment, printing preferences and lack of awareness were found the main cause of overconsumption. Environmental and economic impact of the paper was estimated from the actual amount of paper consumed using standard formulas from literature. The institutions have used 5,200 reams (13 tons) of 80gm A4 size paper in one year. The economic cost of the paper was 7,800 OMR (20,280 US$). The environmental impact estimated are: cutting of 312 trees, 73,970 Ibs of CO 2 gas emission, 144,742 KWh of energy consumption, solid waste produced 29,614 lbs and 247975 gallons of water were wasted. Changing printing preferences, a significant amount of economic and environmental resources to the tune of 44.8% can be saved.
Copyright © 2019 e Author(s). Published by VGTU Press
*Corresponding author. E-mail: iqtidar.sal@cas.edu.om
is is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.
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and source are credited.
Journal of Business Economics and Management
ISSN 1611-1699 / eISSN 2029-4433
2019 Volume 20 Issue 1: 43–62
https://doi.org/10.3846/jbem.2019.6809
THE ECONOMICS OF PAPER CONSUMPTION IN OFFICES
Iqtidar Ali SHAH1*, Sohail AMJED2, Nasser Alhamar ALKATHIRI3
1, 2, 3 Department of Business Administration, College of Applied Sciences, Salalah,
Ministry of Higher Education, Sultanate of Oman
Received 09 January 2018; accepted 08 October 2018
Abstract. is paper explores the factors potentially responsible for the overconsumption of oce
paper and estimates the adverse environmental and economic impact of overconsumption. Data
were collected from the employees of selected higher educational institutions in Oman. Technical
factors, workplace environment, printing preferences and lack of awareness were found the main
cause of overconsumption. Environmental and economic impact of the paper was estimated from
the actual amount of paper consumed using standard formulas from literature. e institutions have
used 5,200 reams (13 tons) of 80gm A4 size paper in one year. e economic cost of the paper was
7,800 OMR (20,280 US$). e environmental impact estimated are: cutting of 312 trees, 73,970Ibs
of CO2 gas emission, 144,742 KWh of energy consumption, solid waste produced 29,614 lbs and
247975 gallons of water were wasted. Changing printing preferences, a signicant amount of eco-
nomic and environmental resources to the tune of 44.8% can be saved.
Keywords: computer technology, environmental and economic cost, Oman, printing, paper con-
sumption.
JEL Classication: Q00, Q51, Q53, D12.
Introduction
World over organizations are looking for the strategies and tactics to improve their nancial
eciency by seeking ways to reduce operating cost. e use of IT is one of the best ways
adopted in most of the organizations to curtail operating cost by replacing oce paper which
saves millions of dollars (Sarantis, 2002). However, signicant evidence exists that IT use in
the workplace such as computers, internet or printer, world wide web and email has increased
paper consumption (Mukete, Sun, Zama, & Monono, 2016; York, 2006; Sellen & Harper,
2002) which has in turn increased companies’ cost of doing business (such as purchasing,
storage, lost documents, postage, waste) and labor ineciency (Sarantis, 2002). Hujala (2011)
and Peters (2003) also conrmed that a growing number of personal computers in oces
has increased paper consumption. us, the dream of paperless oce has not yet become
44 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
a reality (King & Toland, 2014) as paper consumption has continued to rise over the last
few decades (McCormack, 2011). An increasing amount of paper consumption has also a
signicant impact on the environment and human health (Andrés, A. Zentner, & J. Zentner,
2014; Smith, 2011). e environmental impact of paper consumption includes overconsump-
tion of resources, deforestation, air, water and land pollution. e paper industry is among
the world’s largest generators of air and water pollutants, waste products and the gases that
cause climate change. It is also one of the largest user raw materials including fresh water,
energy and forest bers (Sharma, 2014). For example, production of one ton of copy paper
uses 11,134 kWh of electricity, produces 19,075 gallons of wastewater, 2,278 lb of solid waste,
5,690 lb. of greenhouse gases and required 3 tons of wood (FAO, 1997). Impact of paper on
human health include both occupational hazards and impacts on air, soil, and water that af-
fect the health of communities in the vicinity of pulp and paper mills (Soskolne & Sieswerda,
2010). e health impact includes various types of cancer due to the dioxins released in the
production of paper (ompson, Swain, Kay, & Forster, 2001; Sumathi & Hung, 2006, World
Health Organization, 2016).
Unsustainable consumption and production patterns are the main factors inuencing
unsustainability (Jonkutė, 2015). In the case of paper industry, the literature focuses more
on the production side i.e. paper recycling and technologies which can reduce the negative
environmental impact and economic cost. However, technology improvement, which has
increased production eciency, is not sucient to considerably reduce the use of natural
resources (Sophia, 2013). Industrial development has reduced the environmental impact dur-
ing the last 25 years but at the same time production as well as consumption has increased
by the same levels, which erodes the environmental benets of the technological advances:
i.e. the rebound eect (rone, Sto, & Strandbakken 2007). Similarly, ecient production
decreases prices and increases consumption (Niinimäki & Hassi, 2011). us, technologi-
cal approaches are not sucient to achieve sustainable development without focusing on
consumption. erefore, it is important to examine the factors aecting paper consumption.
ere are various factors which have increased the paper consumption in the workplace.
Sopha (2013) explored the behavioral factors of paper consumption which include habit,
intention, attitude, personal norms and situational inuence. However, there are many other
factors responsible for over-consumption of paper such as organization’s requirements, tech-
nical factors related to the use of technology and lack of employees’ awareness regarding the
negative impact of paper use which has not been explored.
e aim of this paper is to explore the potential factors responsible for overconsumption
of paper in organizations and estimate its impact on environmental degradation and eco-
nomic cost. More specically, to investigate the causes and eects of various common prac-
tices on the excessive use of paper in the educational institutions in Dhofar region of Oman
and explore various ways, techniques and strategies to reduce paper use in organizations in
order to improve their eciency by saving their resources and to contribute to environmental
protection. Moreover, to answer the questions of how eciently paper is used for printing
purposes in organizations? What are the causes of overconsumption of paper in organiza-
tions? What are the impacts of overconsumption of paper on environment and economic
cost? And how overconsumption or wastage of paper can be reduced in organizations?
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 45
is paper contributes to the body of existing knowledge by identifying and analyzing
potential factors that inuence paper uses and estimates the impact of paper consumption
and wastage on the operating cost of the organization and the environment. Overall the
paper contributes to the current knowledge of sustainability by analyzing current practices
related to paper consumption.
e rest of the paper is organized as follow: Section 1 is the account of existing literature
related to the study, section 2 presents the conceptual framework, the methodology is ex-
plained in section 3, results are given in section 4, discussion and recommendations is carried
out in section 5 and the last section concludes the paper.
1. Literature review
ere is signicant evidence reported in various reports that paper use and paper wastage at
the workplace has increased due to the use of oce technology such printer, internet, email
etc. e latest report by Upstate Medical University (2016) conrmed that paper product
usage in America has increased from 92 million tons to 208 million (126% increase) in the
last 20 years. e report also conrmed that 45% of the paper printed in oces are ended up
trashed by the end of the day, resultantly, trillion sheets of paper are wasted every year world-
wide. Another report by SC Technology Group (2015) also pointed out the overconsump-
tion of paper and reported that two million pages are printed every minute across Europe,
the Middle East and Africa. e overall global paper production is more than 350 million
tons annually (Smith, 2011). Looking into the wastage side, Hesseldahl (2008) investigated
that half of all documents printed are discarded within 24 hours. Inecient and excessive
utilization of paper has an adverse eect on an organization’s cost, eciency as well as the
environment. e economic cost and environmental concerns related to overconsumption of
paper, causes/factors of overconsumption of paper and strategies to reduce overconsumption
of paper are reviewed below.
1.1. e organization eciency and cost: argument for paper reduction
e suboptimal use of IT technologies increased the use of paper in organizations. Resul-
tantly, the operation costs increased. e printing costs of Bank of America Corp. were run-
ning at $70 million to $90 million a year because of 90,000 printers it owned – one for every
two employees (Tam, 2004). e nancial cost of paper is not only just purchasing the paper
but also costs of storage, documents security, postage, document obsolescence, and labor
ineciency. According to a report, reducing dependency on paper usage at the oce can
result in higher eciency, increased productivity and savings for the organization (Paperless
Project, 2013). Fujitsu (2001) estimated in a case study of an organization that in real estate
processing time was reduced from 46 days to 3 hours by implementing a scanning system
with electronic document access.
e cost impact of using paper in an organization is calculated by Standard Chartered
Bank (2010) which is given in Table 1 below:
46 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
Table 1. Cost impact of paper consumption (source: Standard Chartered Bank, 2010)
Paper Consumption Item used Cost (US$)
140 ton of paper
(56000 reams) of A4
paper per year:
Paper 2,100,000
Depreciation for a mid-level
corporate Laser Printer 910
Toner Cost for paper print-
ing with double sides 903,000
e total cost of electricity
consumed (14,933 kW-hr) 1867
Total printing cost 3,005,777 (3 million $ per year)
1.2. Environmental impact: argument for paper reduction
e paper has become a bottleneck and a clear impediment for organizations that are looking
for greener IT. It is a well-recognized fact that the excessive use of paper in the workplace has
substantial eects on the environment including deforestation, greenhouse gasses emission,
energy consumption, solid waste, wastewater and water contamination. e life of a paper
starts with tree cutting in a forest and ends with the burning, solid waste or recycling. e
most harmful part is the process of paper production which consumes a lot of energy, water,
Sulphur Oxide (SOX) and CO2 emission.
e environmental impact of using paper in the organization is calculated by Standard
Chartered Bank (2010) is given in Table 2.
Table 2. Environmental impact of paper consumption (source: Standard Chartered Bank, 2010)
Production Description Amount Equals to
1 ton A4 paper
(400 reams of
A4 paper)
Wood Requirement 3.47 ton 24.29 trees
Energy Requirement 38.7 million buts ½ year of the energy of a US house-
hold
Solid Waste Produced 2,283 Ibs 0.08 fully loaded garbage trucks
Emissions 5868.8 Ibs ½ year emission for a car
Water Requirements 20,520 gallons 0.03 Olympic sized swimming pool
Waterborne Wastage 109.9 Ibs
1.3. Causes of overconsumption of paper
Concerns about overconsumption of paper in organizations have been raised due to its nega-
tive impacts on the environment, economic cost and eciency. ere are few papers and
reports which have investigated the causes of overconsumption of paper. Sophia (2013) in-
vestigated that paper consumption behavior begins with the appreciation of situational fac-
tors, which inuences norms, which in turn forms a habit. e habit subsequently inuences
paper consumption behavior and thus she concluded that paper consumption behavior is
more habitual. Kazanci (2015) also conducted research on university students to investigate
the preferences of university students for reading from a printed text or from a digital screen
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 47
and conrmed that majority of the students prefer traditional printed paper instead of the
digital screen for their reading activities. Webster (2012) identied several factors of using
more paper in organizations such as workers used paper due to their old habits, require-
ment of hard copy for le, submission of documents in paper form, lling forms by hand,
requirements for physical signature (lack of comfort with electronic signatures), and the need
to print documents for use in the eld where it is dicult to take along a PC. Similarly, the
paper is widely, heavily and preferably used in organizations worldwide because of its physi-
cal properties and aordances such as thin, light, porous, opaque and exible which is easy
to grasp, carry, fold, and write. (Jenkin, Webster, & McShane, 2011; Sellen & Harper, 2002;
York, 2006). King and Toland (2014) compared the aordances and limitations of paper with
Digital technologies such as PCs, e-reader and iPad and found that Digital technologies such
as PCs and e-readers have not been able to minimize the paper because they do not match
the key aordances of paper.
1.4. Strategies for minimizing misuse/overuse of paper consumption
To control paper over consumption or to minimize paper consumption by oce workers in
workplace, various strategies have been proposed by researchers or some international orga-
nizations such as WWF (2015), Federal Electronic Challenges (2012), Sustainability Victoria
(2011), Preton (2010), Standard Chartered Bank (2010), McCool (2008) and Sarantis (2002)
which are reviewed below.
1.4.1. Ecient use of paper
ere are various ways and methods to control overused or misused of paper. For example,
printing/copying onto both sides of a paper can save up to 30% of paper. Duplexing saves
not only paper cost but storage, mailing cost and energy. N-Up printing “multiple pages per
sheet” an option within printing preferences, is an eective way of reducing paper consump-
tion. Reducing margin is also a signicant way adopted in some organizations to reduce
paper consumption. By reducing the margins, 14% less paper is used as compared to normal
margin. Reducing the paper margins to 0.75” or 0.5” can save a signicant amount of paper.
According to a study carried out by the Penn State University (2000), reducing margins
to 0.75” on all sides results in a total reduction of paper usage of 4.75%. e Penn State
University uses 950,350 reams in the year 2000. If the paper used with 0, 75 margins are
applied, 905,208 reams can be used. us, 45,142 reams can be saved with a total saving of
112,855$ (paper cost 2.5$ per ream). Other printing options such as of font size, font types
and line space can be used to reduce the overconsumption of paper. Reducing the font size
to 10 points will decrease the amount of paper. Even reducing from 12 points to 11.5 points
will shrink document about 5%. Paper and ink can be saved by using dierent fonts. An
analysis performed by the University of Wisconsins IT Department concluded that font type
“Century Gothic” and font size 11 was the best for saving ink and toner. Other ink saving
fonts type and size includes “Times New Roman – 12”, “Calibri – 11” and “Verdana – 11”.
Reducing line space to single space can reduce the amount of paper. If we change the line
spacing of 1.0 to 0.95, we can make document 5% shorter. Similarly, the use of print preview
48 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
function before printing can avoid mistakes and can reduce paper use. Similarly, on-screen
proofreading and auditing also reduce paper consumptions. e creation of PDF (Portable
Document Format) can reduce paper use. PDF is a global printing standard. If a hard copy
of a document is not required, a PDF is an eective alternative to printing as a means of
archiving or sharing a document. Another strategy of “image reduction” is used to reduce
paper consumption. For example, when copying a book, two original pages on to one side of
the copied sheet can save paper by 50%. e use of the blank sides of unneeded single-sided
copies (scrap paper) for printing dras or writing notes can save more paper.
1.4.2. Printing policy
In order to reduce the negative impacts of paper use on the costs and environment, it is
imperative that each organization has a policy for “paper use and printing”. Various printing
and copying behavior of employees indicate that there is a lack of printing policies in orga-
nizations. Most of the employees print the paper and then forget to take printout from the
printers, which results in wastage of paper. According to a survey, up to 15% of the pages are
being le unclaimed at the printer and then subsequently discarded (SC Technology Group,
2015). is is because of no limits on using paper printing in most of the organizations. Fix-
ing paper limits/quota for employees can reduce the wastage (EPA, 2001). A comprehensive
printing policy for user authentication, tracking, quotas, and limitations on what employees
can and cannot print, will signicantly reduce the misuse and overuse of paper. Some of
the organizations have banned printing emails and internet content because this is wasteful.
ey asked their employees to use folders and archiving functionality in e-mail application
to organize and view messages. According to McCool (2008), the amount of waste generated
by Web printouts is profoundly provoking. e cost and environmental impact of paper can
be reduced by using thinner paper. For example, paper with a weight of 60 grams has 20%
more cost than paper with 50 grams. Similarly, 100 grams paper cost is 20% more than 80
grams paper. Most oces can transfer paperwork online. For example, a college/university
can provide online time sheets for all campus employees/student/ workers, online admis-
sions, online course registration, correspondence via email etc. Use of electronic purchase
and invoices can also reduce paper use. For example, Bell Atlantic saved 29 tons of paper
and more than $60,000 by expanding the use of electronic purchasing orders and invoices.
1.4.3. Printer default settings
e organizations’ printing policy can be easily implemented by setting up printers to print
with smaller margins, single line space, smaller font size, smaller font type, double-sided,
black and white as an automatic default rather than to check les and paper of individual
employee to make sure that printing policy has been followed. Egebark and Ekström (2013)
conducted a research using the printer default from simplex to duplex in large Swedish uni-
versities to see the eect on paper consumption. ey observed 25 printers on daily basis
for the period of three months and concluded that duplex default of printers reduced paper
consumption by 15%. ey also found that the more conventional method of encouraging
people to save resources has no impact at all.
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 49
1.4.4. Follow me printing
“Follow me printing” is another way recently used in organizations to reduce paper waste and
secure printing documents. Using “follow me printing”, a user can initiate a print job from
any workstation and can execute the print job when physically present at the desired printer
aer successful authentication. In a standard printing environment, a user sent directly to
the printer for immediate printing. is results in wasted paper and toner when printing is
forgotten and not collected.
1.4.5. Awareness and training
e employees’ awareness about the impact of paper on organizations cost and the environ-
ment is essential because it can decrease the use of paper. However, there is lack of evidence
in the literature to show that organizations have provided some kind of training or aware-
ness program to their employees for the ecient use of paper in oces. Some tips have been
developed by organizations regarding how to use paper eciently (Standard Chartered Bank,
2010; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2016; WWF, 2015; Federal Electronic Challenges,
2012; Repaper Project (n.d.).
1.4.6. Use of electronic textbooks
e use of tablets/iPads and electronic textbooks have grown rapidly due to which a new
debate on the eciency, eectiveness and impact of digital materials in comparison to print
materials have emerged. e debate mainly focused on a question that is digital technologies
such as tablets, iPad and electronic textbooks are more environmentally friendly than paper?
King and Toland (2014) examined the use of tablet devices to determine whether they can
make a signicant impact on paper consumption and found that the use of tablet devices
such as the Apple iPad has the potential to reduce paper consumptions particularly in higher
education establishments who are traditionally heavy users of paper. ey further found
that the iPad has not been able to reduce paper consumption to the level expected but it has
been signicantly better than other digital technologies in reducing paper consumption as it
is well perceived, portable, easy to use, and its screen is well suited for reading documents.
AL-Qahtani (2012) explored the potential of using tablet devices and investigated that iPad
reduce the use of paper in the workplace. Moberga, Johanssonb, Finnvedena, and Jonssonc
(2010) investigated the potential environmental impacts of printed newspaper paper and
tablet e-paper newspapers and found that the printed newspaper, in general, had a higher
energy use, higher emissions of gases contributing to climate change and several other impact
categories than the tablet e-paper newspaper. ey concluded that tablet e-paper has the
potential to decrease the environmental impact of newspaper consumption.
1.4.7. Document Management System
Document Management System (DMS) is another fast practical alternative way to reduce
the paper dependency of organizations. is system enables users to easily scan documents,
locate les quickly and share documents with others fastly and securely which reduce compa-
nies cost (Ranko, Berislav, & Antun, 2008). Krishnan and Subramanian (2015) evaluated the
50 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
carbon-reducing impact of a DMS and found that DMS helps to reduce carbon footprint by
more than 1400 kg per day. Susanty, amrin, Erlangga, and Cucus (2012) investigated that
the concept of paperless oce is possible by adopting the DMS by organizations.
2. Conceptual framework
ere are many factors/causes which inuence paper usage in organizations. In this paper,
four factors have been considered as explained in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1. Conceptual framework
e overconsumption of paper in an organization depends on many factors such as tech-
nical factors (McCool, 2008), workplace environment (Sarantis, 2002), organization require-
ments and policies (Jenkin, Webster, & McShane, 2011), employee’s personal preferences
(Jenkin et al., 2011), employees’ awareness and training about the usage of paper (WWF,
2015), etc. Signicant evidence shows that paper is misused and overused in organizations
due to aforementioned factors which are a challenge for organizations and world commu-
nity because of its worse eect on resources and the environment. e factor “organizations’
requirements and policies” regarding the usage of paper is out of the scope of this paper
because many legal issues are involved due to which it is not possible for an employee and
organizations to reduce dependency on paper. is paper is limited to the four factors i.e.
technical factors, workplace environment, employees’ personal preferences, employee’s aware-
ness and training. ese factors are chosen because organizations can control the overuse
or misuse of paper if they realized that how these factors contribute in the overconsumption
of paper without compromise of their organizations’ policies, legal issues and any additional
costs. ere is a relationship between misuse/overuse of paper and technical factors because
there are many employees who are not familiar with the use of printers or carelessly printing
documents. In many oces, printers have also some technical faults. Due to these technical
factors, paper is overused. Similarly, the workplace environment of the organization has also
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 51
an impact on the use of paper. For example, many employees keep printed documents in
their personal record because they do not trust their colleagues. ere are employees who
keep printed documents in safe custody because they do not trust the technology and they
think that hard copies are safer than the so copies. Resultantly, the use of paper increased
due to the inappropriate workplace environment. e relationship between overconsump-
tion of paper and peoples preference for using various options of printing and paper cannot
be ignored. Due to the digital technology various option of line space, font types, font size,
paper margin etc. is available to the employees which have signicantly increased the use of
paper in organizations. Similarly, some employees do not know the use of technology and
its various options; they do not know the impact of paper usage on organization resources
and the environment. us, due to lack of awareness and training to employees, the paper is
overused or misused in the organization. ere is also a bidirectional relationship between
paper usage and paper wastage. e more employees use paper, the more wastage will be and
vice versa. ere is also adverse impact of paper usage and paper wastage on resources and
the environment. e overall uses of paper in oces have a negative impact on the organiza-
tions eciency, cost and environment. is paper is limited to two variables i.e. organization
cost and the environment.
3. Methodology
All the three higher education institutions from Salalah city of Dhofar region of the Sultanate
of Oman were surveyed which include College of Applied Sciences, Technical College, and
Dhofar University. e survey was personally administrated by the researchers. Informed
consent was obtained from the educational institutions through the ocial channel prior
to starting the survey and the condentiality and anonymity of the responses were ensured.
More than 200 questionnaires in both Arabic and English language were distributed in per-
son to the academic and administrative sta of the participating educational institutions. All
most all academic and administrative sta were using papers. However, data were obtained
from those who were available in their oces at the time of survey using a convenience
sampling procedure. Total 179 completed questionnaires were collected back in person of
whom 176 questionnaires were usable.
3.1. Survey instrument
A questionnaire was developed in the Arabic language to obtain data about the paper con-
sumption and factors potentially responsible for the paper wastage in the educational institu-
tions in Dhofar region of the Sultanate of Oman. e ocial language of Sultanate of Oman
is Arabic but English is widely used as a second language. e questionnaire was translated
into the English language for non-Arabic expatriate employees by using the standard method
of “back translation. e questionnaire includes questions about the demographics of the
respondents and six other variables; namely, (i) approximate weekly paper usage (ii) approxi-
mate weekly paper wastage (iii) respondent’s perception of the workplace environment (iv)
technical factors (v) personal printing preferences and (vi) employee’s awareness about the
52 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
environmental degradation due to paper usage. e questionnaire was initially sent to the
selective academicians for validity and technical evaluation and suggestions for improvement
prior to nalization. e suggestions for improvement in the instrument from the academic
sta were incorporated in the rst round. As a second round, the questionnaire was distrib-
uted for pilot testing and the responses were analyzed. Aer satisfying the entire prerequisite
to conducting the survey the questionnaire was distributed for data collection.
We included two explained variables and four explanatory variables in the questionnaire.
e explained variables include paper usage and paper wastage. Explanatory variables include
technical factors, workplace environment, personal preferences, and employee’s awareness.
Approximate weekly paper usage is measured as 3 items ve-point ordinal scale. e variable
contains questions such as (i) how many pages you print for your email correspondences
on average per week? (ii) How many pages you print from internet contents on average per
week? (iii) How many pages you print/photocopy other than email and internet contents on
average per week? Similarly, approximate weekly paper wastage was measured using 3 items
ve-point ordinal scale. e variable contains questions such as (i) how many pages are usu-
ally wasted when you print/copy the paper on average per week? (ii) How many pages do you
put in shredder aer reading/using on average per week? (iii) How many pages do you put
in the dustbin aer reading/using on average per week? e potentially explained variables
were measured by using ve scale ordinal ranges of the number of pages.
Four explanatory variables were included as potential determinants of the paper usage
and paper wastage. Technical factors were measured by 3 items using a ve-point Likert
scale. e variable contained items such as (i) How frequently are paper wasted due to mal-
functioning of printing equipment? (ii) How frequently are paper wasted due to unintended
printing command? (iii) How frequently are paper wasted due to unfamiliar printing equip-
ment? Workplace environment with reference to the paper usage was the second explana-
tory variable measured as 5-point Likert scale including 4 questions such as (i) I maintain
a personal record of documents in hard copies due to an insecure oce environment (ii) I
keep a record in the form of printed documents in anticipation of future problems. (iii) I
keep printed documents in safe custody as I can’t trust the technology. (iv) I fear, anytime
someone can accuse me and I would need documented evidence to prove my stance. e
third explanatory variable “printing preferences” was measured by 5 items using ve points
Likert scale. e questions include (i) I prefer to print on one side of the paper. (ii) I prefer
high-quality paper for printing documents (ii) I prefer wide margin for printing documents
(iv) I prefer clear and large font style for printing documents (v) I prefer the line spacing
greater than 1 line for printing documents. Finally, the employees’ awareness about the en-
vironmental degradation due to paper usage and wastage was measured as 6 items using ve
points Liker scale. e questions include (i) I have learnt about the negative eects of paper
usage on environment through conferences or public talks (ii) I have read printed material
about the negative impact of paper usage on the environment (iii) I have learnt through
social media about the negative environmental impact of paper usage (iv) I have watched
television program/documentary about the negative impact of the paper usage on environ-
ment (v) I have been informed by my organization about the value of paper I use (vi) I have
been trained/motivated by my organization to be ecient in paper use. e reliability of the
variable was tested using Cronbachs Alpha values.
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 53
3.2. Model development
We included two explained variables in this paper and the parameter coecients were esti-
mated through two separate regression equations. e relationship between the considered
variables is expressed as the following general models.
PU= f (PW, TF, WP, PP, EA); (1)
PW= f (PU, TF, WP, PP, EA), (2)
where PU is approximate weekly paper usage by the respondent individually. PW is the
approximate weekly paper wastage by the respondent individually. TF is the technical fac-
tors potentially responsible for paper usage and excessive printing. WP is the workplace
environment, PP is personal preferences for printing and EA is employee’s awareness about
the adverse environmental eect of paper usage. e paper usage and paper wastage were
interchangeably used as explained variables in one equation and explanatory variable in other
equation. We argue that paper usage causes paper wastage and simultaneously paper wastage
cause excessive paper usage. erefore, we expect a bidirectional causation. We specify the
following regression equations to estimate the parameters.
01 2 3 4 5
PU PW TF WP PP EA= β
; (3)
01 2 3 4 5
PW PU TF WP PP EA= β
, (4)
where β0 the constant and β1 to β5 are the parameter coecients of explanatory variables and
ε
is the residual error which is normally distributed.
To assess the negative impact of paper usage and wastage on the environment we used
standard formulas to quantify the environmental impact of paper usage (Abramovitz & Ash-
ley, 1999; Standard Chartered Bank, 2010; Mueller, 2001; Repaper Project (n.d.); FAO, 1997).
To achieve this objective rst we estimated the paper usage and wastage by individual em-
ployees through the collected data and then the standard formulas are applied to calculate
the corresponding values. e actual data of paper usage by the participating educational
institutions was also collected to check the reliability of the estimates. On the basis of the
estimated data about the paper consumption and paper wastage, we estimated the economic
cost and the environmental impact.
4. Results
Overall the response rate was 88%. Out of the usable responses, 60% were in Arabic language
and 40% were in English. e 32% of the respondents were female and 68% were male. e
responses from the academic sta remained 40% of the total sample and the remaining 60%
were from the administrative sta of the educational institutions. e average age of the
respondents was 34 years. With regard to academic qualication 15% of the respondents re-
ported school education 27% reported diploma, 32% reported graduation, and 15% reported
master degree and 11% were PhDs.
e descriptive statistics is presented in Table 3. e results show that the average re-
sponse of the paper usage is 2.26 which corresponds to the option 11–20 pages per week
54 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
or more precisely 15 pages per week. Similarly, the average response of the paper wastage is
more than two which has corresponding value 6–10 pages per week. e Cronbach’s Alpha
values indicate that our variables have internal consistency and the collected data is reliable
for the statistical analysis.
Table 3. Descriptive statistics
Variables N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Dev Cronbachs
Alpha
No of
Items
PU 176 1.00 4.67 2.2595 .76526 0.773 3
PW 176 1.00 4.33 2.1080 .80338 0.744 3
TF 176 1.00 4.67 2.2443 .71556 0.697 3
WP 176 1.00 5.00 2.7159 .95070 0.810 4
PP 176 1.00 4.60 2.5716 .92353 0.812 5
EA 176 1.00 5.00 2.6051 .96387 0.832 6
e pairwise correlation matrix by using the Pearson method is presented in Table 4.
e Pearson correlation is widely used method to estimate the nature of linear relation-
ship between the variables. A Pearson correlation is preferred over the alternate Spearman
correlation method in cases where the relationship between the variable is assumed to be
linear. When the relationship between variables is non-linear Spearman correlation method
is desirable because it estimates the correlation with monotonic variation in data. Since we
posit the relationship among the considered variables is linear, therefore we applied Pear-
son correlation method. e results show that paper usage has a ppositive link with paper
wastage, technical factors, workplace environment and personal preferences. However, a
Table 4. Correlation matrix
Variables PU PW TF WP PP EA
PU Pearson Correlation 1.000 .700*.588*.419*.465*–.559*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
PW Pearson Correlation .700*1.000 .490*.390*.454*–.565*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
TF
Pearson Correlation .588*.490*1.000 .315*.354*–.428*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
WP Pearson Correlation .419*.390*.315*1.000 .274*–.242*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.001
PP Pearson Correlation .465*.454*.354*.274*1.000 –.426*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
EA Pearson Correlation –.559*–.565*–.428*–.242*–.426*1.000
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.001 0.000
* Correlation is signicant at 1% level. (2-tailed)
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 55
negative correlation is found between paper usage and employee awareness. Similarly, there
is a positive relationship between paper wastage, technical factors, workplace environment
and personal preferences. e correlation between employee awareness and paper wastage is
negative. In all cases except paper usage and wastage the correlation coecient values show
the moderate correlation among the variables. erefore, there is no issue of multicollinear-
ity in the model.
4.1. Regression results
e results of the regression equation 1 are presented in Table 5. e results show that paper
wastage and technical factors cause overconsumption of paper. e parameter coecient
of paper wastage and technical factors are statistically signicant at 1% signicance level.
Workplace environment also causes paper usage and the results are signicant at 5% level.
Personal printing preferences also cause excessive paper usage but the results are signicant
at 10% level. e negative value of beta corresponding to employee’s awareness indicates that
the lack of awareness causes excessive paper usage and the parameter coecient is signi-
cant at 5% level. e inverse relationship between awareness and paper usage was expected.
e signicant value of F-statistics indicates that our model is consistent. e coecient of
determination and the adjusted value of the coecient of determination indicates that the
60% of the variation in the dependent variable is explained by the independent variables.
Table 5. Regression Model 1
Dependent
Variable PU
Unstandardized Coecients Standardized
Coecients t-value Sig.
BStd. Error Beta
(Constant) .693** .284 2.444 .016
PW .379* .062 .398 6.110 .000
TF .274* .062 .255 4.457 .000
WP .100** .044 .119 2.258 .025
PP .082*** .048 .095 1.702 .091
EA –.135** .053 –.156 –2.566 .011
F-Statistics 53.132 R20.610
P-Value 0.000* Adjusted R20.598
D-Watson 2.048
*, ** and *** show signicant at 1%, 5% and 10% respectively.
e result of the regression equation 2 is presented in Table 6. e results show that
paper usage is the signicant determinant of paper wastage and results are statistically sig-
nicant at 1% level. e positive and statistically signicant value of beta of paper wastage
and paper usage as an independent variable in two dierent equations indicate that there
is a bi-directional causality between the two variables. Employees awareness has an adverse
56 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
relationship with paper wastage and results are signicant at 1% condence level. Technical
factors have a positive relationship with the paper wastage but the result is not statistically
signicant. Workplace environment and personal preferences have a positive and signicant
relation with paper wastage at 10% level. e coecient of determination and adjusted coef-
cient of determination shows that more than 54% variation is explained by the independent
variables in the model. e diagnostic tests favor the robustness of the model. e signicant
value of F-Statistics indicates that the model is the best t. e Durbin-Watson states show
that the model is free from autocorrelation.
Table 6. Regression Model 2
Dependent
Variable PW
Unstandardized Coecients Standardized
Coecients TSig.
BStd. Error Beta
(Constant) .959* .315 3.048 .003
TF .071 .073 .063 .981 .328
WP .088*** .050 .100 1.759 .080
PP .091*** .054 .101 1.688 .093
EA –.198* .058 –.218 –3.416 .001
PU .475* .078 .453 6.110 .000
F-Statistics 42.546* R20.556
P-Value 0.000 Adjusted R20.543
D-Watson 2.116
*, ** and *** show signicant at 1%, 5% and 10% respectively.
4.2. Calculating the impact of paper consumptions on environment
To assess the negative impact of paper usage and paper wastage on the operating cost of the
organization and environment, we used standard formulas to quantify the impact. One ream
of paper containing 500 pages of 80 gm paper approximately cost 1.5 OMR. To produce one
ton of paper, 24 large size trees are cut, 5,690lbs carbon dioxide gas is emitted, 11,134KHh
energy is consumed, 19,075 gallons of water is wasted and 2,278 lbs solid waste is produced
(Abramovitz & Ashley, 1999; Standard Chartered bank, 2010; Mueller, 2001; Repaper Proj-
ect (n.d.); FAO, 1997). Table 7 shows total cost of paper consumed during one year and the
impact of paper consumption on environment of the three selected education institutions in
Dhofar region of Oman using the standard formulas.
e three institutions in Dhofar region used 5,200 reams (13 tons) of the 80 gm paper.
e cost of the paper consumed in one year by the three institutions was 7,800 OMR. e
paper used by the institutions was manufactured by cutting about 312 trees, 73,970 Ibs of
CO2 gas was emitted, 144,742 KWh energy was consumed, 29,614 lbs of solid waste was
produced and 247975 gallons of water was wasted.
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 57
Table 7. Impact of 5,200 reams (13 tons) of Paper used by three Selected Educational Institutions in
Dhofar Region of Oman in one year (I OMR = 2.60 US$)
Quantity of
Oce Paper
Used
(A4 and 80
grams)
Impact
Cost Environment
Total Cost
@ 1.5 OMR
per ream
Trees
Required @
24 per ton
CO2
Emission @
5,690 lbs per
ton
Energy Con-
sumed @
11,134 KWh
per ton
Solid Waste
@ 2278 Ib
per ton
Water Waste
@19,075 gal-
lon per ton
5,200 reams
(13 tons)
(5.2 reams /
2600 paper
per person /
year)
7,800 312 73,970 144,742 29,614 247975
52,00 reams = 5,600,000 pages = 13,000 KG = 13 tons = 28,660 Ibs.
4.3. Calculating the saving impact of paper
ere are many IT related tips/formulas identied by practitioners to reduce paper consump-
tion in oces. Standard formulas from Mueller (2001) have been used to calculate paper
saving possibilities in the three higher educational institutions of Dhofar Region, Oman. For
example, 30% saving is possible by using both sides of paper for print purpose. Similarly,
the ecient margin of 0.75 can save 4.75% of paper. Moreover, the use of line space of 0.9
and font size of 11.5 can save 5% of paper. By adopting these standard formulas, the saving
impact of paper is calculated in the following Table 8.
Table 8. Saving Impact of 5,200 reams (13 tons) of Paper used by three Selected Institutions in Dhofar
Region in one year aer Applying IT and Non-IT Tips
Tips for ecient
use of paper
Saving Impact
Paper
(ream)
Cost
(OMR)
Trees
(no.)
CO2
Emis sion
(Ibs)
Energy
(KWh)
Solid
Waste
(Ibs)
Water
Waste
(gallon)
Printing both Sides
(30% saving) 1560 2340 93.6 22,191.0 43,422.6 8884.2 74,392.5
Ecient Margin
(0.75) (4.75% sav-
ing)
247 370.5 14.82 3,513.56 6,875.25 1406.67 11,778.81
Line Space (0.9)
(5% saving) 260 390 15.6 3,698.5 7237.1 1480.7 12398.75
Font Size (11.5)
(5% saving) 260 390 15.6 3,698.5 7237.1 1480.7 12398.75
Total Savings 2,327 3,490.5 139.62 33,101.58 64,772.05 13,252.27 110,968.81
58 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
By ecient use of paper, a signicant amount of paper can be saved. By prudent use of
printing commands such as printing on both sides of paper, ecient margin, line spacing and
font size 2,327 reams of paper (5.82 tons) can be saved. As a result, 3,490.5 OMR can be saved
which is about 44.8% of the total paper cost, 139.62 trees (44.8%) can be saved, 33,101.58 lbs
of CO2 reduction (44.8%), 64,7720.45KWh energy (44.8%) can be saved, 213,252.27 Ibs solid
waste (44.8%) can be reduced and 110,968.81 gallons of water (44.8%) can be saved. is is
just for three organizations with 1044 employees.
5. Discussion and recommendations
e results of the survey show that on average an employee in the educational institutions of
Dhofar region of the Sultanate of Oman uses 15 pages per week and about 5 pages are wasted.
e research ndings suggest that (i) paper wastage, (ii) technical factors, (iii) workplace
environment, (iv) personal printing preferences and (v) lack of awareness are among the
most important factors which induce excessive paper usage. Technical problems in printing
papers are malfunctioning of the printing machines, unfamiliar printing machines and un-
intended printing commands which result in excessive paper usage. By appropriate training
of the employees to use the printing machines and timely repair and maintenance of the
oce equipment can signicantly reduce the paper wastage and usage. In the survey, about
81.8% of the respondents agreed that training would help to improve paper conservation and
about 67.1% want to attend a training program for the ecient use of paper. e workplace
environment is another signicant factor causing the excessive use of paper. Insecure work
environment and organizational politics cause people to print documents and other mate-
rial for their personal record to avoid future problems. By providing the cordial working
environment and employees’ training to respect the privacy of other co-workers in addition
to prudent HR policies can contribute to the reduction in the paper usage. Personal printing
preferences cause the excessive printing due to lack of knowledge about the impact of various
printing settings on the consumption of paper and resultantly environmental degradation.
If the proper margin, prudent line spacing and double-sided printing are used, a signicant
amount of paper can be saved. e results of over-consumption of paper due to personal
printing preference is consisted with the results of a survey conducted by Kasavel (2013).
e awareness about the impact of paper usage on the environment and cost is another fac-
tor which causes unwise paper consumption. A small eort to create awareness and proper
training can greatly contribute to the optimal usage of paper. Optimal use of paper can
greatly contribute to the reduction of operating cost of the organizations as well as signicant
reduction in environmental degradation.
Conclusions
is paper aims to investigate the factors potentially responsible for the excessive use of
paper and wastage of paper in the workplace and estimate its impact on the environment
and economic cost of the organizations in Dhofar region of Sultanate of Oman. A personally
administered survey of the educational institutions was conducted to obtain the data related
Journal of Business Economics and Management, 2019, 20(1): 43–62 59
to the variables under the consideration from the academic and administrative sta of the
educational institutions. e research ndings show that technical factors, workplace envi-
ronment, printing preferences and lack of awareness are the main causes of excessive printing
and paper wastage. e three Higher Educational Institutions in Dhofar region have used
5,200 reams (13 tons) of the 80 gm A4 size paper in 2015. e economic cost (only paper
cost) of the paper was 7,800 OMR (20,280 US$). e environmental impacts estimated are:
cutting of 312 trees, 73,970 Ibs of CO2 gas emission, 144,742 KWh of energy consumption,
solid waste produced 29,614 lbs of and 247975 gallons of water was wasted. By changing the
printing preferences and creating awareness, a signicant amount of economic and environ-
mental resources can be saved to the tune of 44.8%.
e results show that an ecient and wise utilization of paper is an important component
of environmental sustainability and cost reduction. However, policy related to printing in
workplaces is lacking in most of the organizations. To minimize paper consumption, each
organization can develop their own policy for paper use and printing. It would be more ef-
fective for each institution to devise a standard paper saving settings for paper use. Similarly,
there is a lack of awareness among the oce workers regarding the impact of excessive print-
ing on the organizations’ cost and the environment. It is necessary to make them aware to the
causes of excessive use of paper, cost impact and environmental impact. Employee awareness
of the amount of paper they used for copying and printing and the amount of money spent
on paper and printing will change the attitude of employees of overusing paper. Training
workers how to minimize paper use is also essential for the organization. Similarly, techni-
cal know-how about printer use is important to reduce misprinting. Organizations can help
protect the climate by using paper more eciently and avoiding wasteful.
e paper developed a theoretical background discussion on the basis of empirical re-
search data of paper consumption and wastage in various organizations/countries world-
wide. Overall the paper contributes to the current knowledge of sustainability by analyzing
current practices related to paper consumption. is paper is limited to the four factors
related to overconsumption of paper in oces i.e. technical factors, workplace environment,
employees’ personal preferences, employees awareness and training. On the impact side of
paper consumption, only environmental and economic cost is included. e researchers can
include other variables such as organization policies, ease of using printing technology etc.
Similarly, the impact of paper on organization eciency can be included in the other stud-
ies. is paper will help organizations to analyze their current practices, policies and take
practical action to reduce environmental impact and economic costs by improving the use
of organization resources.
Author contributions
Iqtidar conceived the study and he is responsible for the design and development of the paper
and he wrote the rst dra. Nasser was responsible for data collection. Sohail was responsible
for data analysis and interpretation.
60 I. A. Shah et al. e economics of paper consumption in oces
Disclosure statement
We hereby declare that there is no competing nancial, professional, or personal interest
from other parties.
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... Additionally, the Marine Institute ISO 17025 quality system (that covers multiple laboratories) has transitioned to full electronic document control using a document control management system (Paradigm 3 compliance management software). Such strategies lead to a significant reduction in paper consumption, use of printing ink, printer maintenance, electricity, and the requirement for storage space [16]. Other ways to reduce paper consumption include: use of recycled paper; using the blank sides of unneeded singlesided copies (scrap paper) for printing drafts or writing notes; printing on both sides; and using FollowMe printers [16]. ...
... Such strategies lead to a significant reduction in paper consumption, use of printing ink, printer maintenance, electricity, and the requirement for storage space [16]. Other ways to reduce paper consumption include: use of recycled paper; using the blank sides of unneeded singlesided copies (scrap paper) for printing drafts or writing notes; printing on both sides; and using FollowMe printers [16]. ...
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... With respect to Ezeudu et al. (2019), over 300 million tons of papers and cardboards are utilized for various applications on yearly basis. In another report, world paper production is over 350 million tons per year, 45% of which end up disposed off that same year (Shah et al. 2019). According to FAO (2014), paper would be consumed to the tune of 500 million tons by 2025. ...
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... Water consumption is also another area that researchers focused on (Rajaeian, et al., 2018) in teaching its vital importance to students. Another perspective includes office materials utilization like changing printing preferences (Shah et al., 2019), and students' level of climate change awareness and environmental attitude (Magulod, 2018). Office materials are important in learning since it is part of the daily routine of teachers and students. ...
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