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5/13/2009
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Federal Government Wastes $440 Million On Printing Annually

A whopping 89% told survey researchers that their agencies don't have formal printing policies to cut back on printing.

According to a new report from printer vendor Lexmark and O'Keeffe and Co., the federal government wastes $440.4 million a year on unnecessary printing.

The report -- which extrapolated the findings of a survey of 380 federal government employees out to 2.6 million federal civilian employees and combined that with Lexmark data estimating the federal government cost per printed page -- estimated that the government spends about $1.3 billion on printing annually.

The findings were consistent between Generation Y employees and baby boomers, despite differing perceptions of environmentalism across age groups. Gen Y employees said they print 29 pages daily and throw away or recycle 31% of them the same day, while baby boomers said they print 31 pages daily and throw away or recycle 34% that day.

It's not that federal employees don't know they're being wasteful, as 64% said they could print less and 69% said their agencies could move more toward digital documentation. However, a whopping 89% said that their agencies don't have formal printing policies to cut back on printing, and 54% of federal employees said they weren't aware of cost considerations of printing.

The reasons most cited for printing papers in government were the need for signatures, to review or share documents, and a preference to edit hard copies of documents. In its report, Lexmark made a number of recommendations for cutting back on printing. It said agencies should have clear, enforceable printing guidelines like automatic double-sided printing and use of identification cards to monitor and track employee printing. According to Lexmark, government agencies should also consider things like electronic filing systems and digital signatures to cut back on the use of paper.

Overall, employees estimated they printed 30 pages each day, which would be 7,200 pages a year per employee, or 18.8 billion annual pages printed across the government, of which 6.6 billion pages are unnecessarily printed. According to nonprofit organization Conservatree, each tree contains enough wood for 8,333 sheets of paper, so the U.S. government may waste 788,743 trees worth of paper annually. The state of Iowa mandates forest reserves must contain 200 trees per acre, so this represents 3,944 acres or 6.2 square miles of forest annually wasted by unnecessary printing.


InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization -- deadline extended to May 15.

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