A report from printer manufacturer Lexmark claims the federal government wastes $440 million dollars a year (almost $1 million per day) on unnecessary printing.
While it could probably be said that most businesses-large, medium and small-print
more than is necessary, a report by printing company Lexmark International
revealed the U.S. government wastes a staggering $440 million annually on
unnecessary printing-more than $1 million per day-almost as much as it costs to
print actual currency.
The federal government spends nearly $1.3 billionannually on
employee printing: 57 percent of federal employees surveyed cited the need to
have signatures on paper documents as the reason for so much printing, while 51
percent cited the need to share hard copies of documents with others. Overall,
69 percent of federal employees said they believe their agencies "rely strongly
on paper trails."
When asked to compare in-office printing habits to personal printing habits,
61 percent of federal employees say they print "significantly more" in the
office than at home. Further, federal teleworkers report printing more than
twice as many pages in their agencies' offices than in their home offices.
The survey also indicated federal employees share similar printing habits,
regardless of agency. Department of Defense (DoD) employees' responses indicate
lack of awareness of their printing habits, Lexmark said, while federal
civilian employees' responses indicate a greater reliance on paper trails. Both
the DoD and federal civilian employees report printing nearly identical amounts
of unnecessary pages. Lexmark also discovered unnecessary printing spans generations-federal Baby
Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y employees print and discard nearly the same number of
pages. Contrary to the perception of a more environmentally conscious
generation, Gen Y employees print and immediately discard just as often as
their older colleagues, the survey found. The company said federal employees must understand and changetheir
carefree printing habits: Although 80 percent of respondents said they believe
that they personally make conscious efforts to monitor their printing habits,
92 percent admitted they do not need all of the documents they print in a day. The survey also indicated federal employees are interested in reducing
wasteful printing (78 percent said it's easier to locate and to reference
digital documents than paper documents), but also discovered there are simple
cost-cutting measures that are not widely implemented. According to federal
employees, just 20 percent of agencies have restrictions on color printing and
only 11 percent of agencies have policies dictating when to/not to print. Just 9
percent of government agencies have automatic duplex printing, and a meager 5
percent of agencies require personal codes to print. Based on the results of the survey, Lexmark issued a series of recommendations
to help reduce wasteful printing. It advocates for a "clear printing strategy,"
communicating guidelines and enforcing standardized federal printing policies
within all agencies and deploying automatic duplex on all printers. The company
also recommended converting to electronic filing systems and securing digital
signatures and holding employees accountable through personal identification
codes that can monitor, track and report employee printing.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.