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 billion annually 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 change their 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.