Paper Utility

You know you need to use less paper, but where do you start? Paper is used for so many different purposes it can be baffling to know where to focus efficiency efforts. The concept of ‘paper utility’ can help.

By analysing paper consumption in terms of both volumes and function, our Paper Utility Matrix can help you to work out which papers are really useful to your organisation and which ones are costing you money and causing most environmental impact, without actually serving a valuable purpose.

This will enable you to target efficiency efforts without reducing the many benefits of paper for education, entertainment, commerce, health and sanitation.

Paper Utility Factsheet PDF


The level of utility of different paper products can vary enormously. Some paper applications really enrich our lives and are durable, high-value objects – good books are the prime example. Other high utility paper objects include money, passports, maps, birthday cards, toilet roll and school exercise books. These enhance the experience of particular individuals and benefit society in general.

By contrast, direct mail that is binned as soon as it is posted through the letter box, and thus gets the appropriate name ‘junk mail’, serves no useful purpose whatsoever: it causes irritation to the recipient and reduces the reputation of the sender, while also costing them money, and its environmental footprint, from the forest to the dump, has brought no value at all. Other low utility paper products include excess packaging, unsold magazines, and disposable objects like plates and cups used where reusable alternatives are feasible. Unfortunately many of these are produced, and wasted, in high volumes.

Our society will be a much better place, and our environmental footprints could reduce dramatically, when we eliminate low utility, high volume paper.


Which papers do you think are most useful?

Take our paper utility survey here and help us to work better. Thank you.