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By Lizette Salmon    Lizette is a member of Transition Towns Albury Wodonga and the convener of WATCH (Wodonga & Albury Towards Climate Health)

In a previous life I worked at a hospital in Melbourne where I became very concerned at the huge volumes of paper wasted on site. It was in the days before email communication and everyone received single-sided hard copies of just about every memo doing the rounds. Not only that, but the paper used was always the 100% virgin variety, straight from an old growth forest somewhere.

Rather than just put up and shut up I decided to do something about it. I contacted the supply department and obtained figures on how much paper the hospital used. Then I surveyed a few staff to find out why they photocopied single sided and heard it was because they didn’t know how to use the duplex function. I traipsed around every photocopier and worked out how to photocopy double-sided on each, then taped simple instructions on top of them all. Together with a few on-site photocopying demonstrations, this relatively quick and simple exercise measurably reduced the hospital’s paper use.

I’m glad I had this easy win because my next paper mission at the hospital was not so successful. I hoped to persuade the supply department to switch from virgin paper to recycled paper, knowing that recycled paper not only saves trees but uses less energy to produce. However back then the recycled paper was an off-white colour, expensive and jammed in certain photocopiers. There was no way the supply department would consider switching to recycled paper.

A dozen years have passed and it’s great to see that recycled paper has really come into its own now.  In terms of quality, the recycled variety is virtually indistinguishable from the virgin paper and cost-wise they’re practically on par. Recycled paper no longer causes havoc in photocopiers either. As far as I can see recycled paper is the obvious choice for businesses and households alike. Three years ago I noticed that Wodonga Council was using 80% recycled paper and more recently heard that La Trobe University uses 100% recycled paper. Why then, when I got quotes for a print job a couple of months ago did most of the local printing companies only offer to do the job with virgin paper? I eventually gave the job to a small business nearby but had to drop round the recycled paper myself.

When next making your paper purchases please take a few moments to compare products and make the eco-friendly choice.