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U.S. Government Wastes Over $440 Million per Year in Printing: Report

About one-third of all government printing is wasted, and federal employees lack incentives and guidelines to reduce printing waste, according to a new report from Lexmark.

Out of the nearly $1.3 billion dollars, the federal government spends on printing every year, almost one-third -- $440 million -- is wasteful, according to a new report.

The "2009 Government Printing Report," researched and published by Lexmark and O'Keeffe & Company, is the result of a survey of federal employees across agencies that was conducted in March 2009. The resulting report is full of eye-opening statistics and comparisons showing just how much paper and financial waste can result from a lack of green printing policies.

Federal employees on average print 30 pages every work day, totaling 7,200 pages printed per employee, per year. The bulk of the employees -- 92 percent -- say they print more than they need, and on average federal workers discard 35 percent of the paper they print out every day. These numbers hold true across agencies and across age ranges -- "generation Y" employees are as wasteful as Baby Boomers, despite other studies' findings that younger Americans are more environmentally aware than older generations.

Part of the trouble stems from the fact that 89 percent of federal agencies don't have formal printing policies in place, 91 percent have yet to adopt automatic duplex printing, and 95 percent don't require employees to enter personal codes to print.

This all seems to lead to a culture of wasteful printing in the federal government: when employees that telework are at their home offices, they print just one-third as much paper than they do in federal buildings.

Listed among the reasons why federal agencies use so much paper, 57 percent of respondents said they need to have signatures on paper documents, 54 percent said they need paper copies to share and review in meetings, and 51 percent need to share hard copies of documents with co-workers.

Despite the systemic drivers behind printing waste, employees believe they are trying to be conscientious about their paper use, and 64 percent believe they could print less. Over two-thirds -- 69 percent -- of respondents said the paper trails so necessary to their work could be converted to digital trails, and 78 percent said locating and referencing digital documents would be easier than hard copies.

Responsible printing policies can be a significant -- and relatively easy -- way to improve both a company's environmental footprint and its economic bottom line. The Lexmark report finds that the $440 million in potential savings from smarter federal printing would cover a large chunk of the total cost of printing U.S. currency every year -- $492.8 million.

Earlier this month, the state of Washington enacted a green printing law that would reduce paper use in every state office by 30 percent in the next year. Last month, published a list of simple steps to a "paper-light office" that details some of the ways companies can cut their paper use.

The "2009 Government Printing Report" is available for download from

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