Rev Up Your Company’s Sustainability Efforts

Shredding programs are implemented to comply with critical regulations and policies concerning privacy and security. So why do so many shredding conversations include discussions about sustainability?

If your company is like most, it has begun to recognize the benefits that a corporate sustainability program can have on the environment, as well as on brand image and your bottom line. Even in today’s tough economy, sustainability goals remain high on the corporate agenda. KPMG reported earlier this year that 62 percent of companies surveyed now have a strategy for corporate sustainability, up from just over half in February 2008.

Enthusiasm for sustainability is evident—just take a look at the wide range of corporate eco-activities. Over the past year, businesses have taken steps to improve their energy efficiency (72 percent), reduce their products’ environmental footprints (69 percent) and cut emissions or pollutants (67 percent), KPMG’s research shows.

If such initiatives sound like they require more strategic planning than your organization can handle, consider this: When you simply increase the amount of paper you recycle, you’re achieving all of these goals. 

A Paper Vortex

The typical American office is a particularly good target for recycling efforts. Office workers discard millions of tons of high-quality paper every year. If it weren’t headed straight for a landfill, it could be recycled up to 12 times, according to the Environmental Paper Network.

There are plenty of good reasons—some not so obvious—to make sure you get more life out of your paper. For instance, pulp and paper mills produce a lot of air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, which degrade the ozone layer and contribute to acid rain, global climate change and respiratory problems. Producing paper from recycled material causes 74 percent less air pollution than producing it from virgin materials, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Also, paper makes up a surprisingly large amount of landfill waste—more than 25 percent. And as paper decomposes, it releases methane, a climate-warming gas that is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Burning paper instead is not a remedy, because it still releases carbon dioxide. A better alternative is to make paper from recycled material, one ton of which emits 37 percent fewer greenhouse gases than creating virgin paper, according to EPN.

Energy Saver

Recycling can significantly reduce energy usage in paper production. Paper manufacturing is among the top five most energy-intensive industries, accounting for 4 percent of global industrial energy use, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Making paper from recycled content saves 65 percent of the energy needed to make new paper, according to the Bureau of International Recycling.

There’s also a positive impact on water use and wastewater levels. Paper manufacturers regularly go through thousands of gallons of water, only to discharge it later, usually laden with pollutants that can deplete the oxygen supply in fresh water and harm fish and other aquatic creatures. Recycling helps save 7,000 gallons of water for each ton of paper produced, the EPA says.

And, of course, recycling saves trees. It’s true that trees are a renewable resource and that paper companies often use farm-raised trees tagged specifically for harvesting. But the farms cannot support the plant and animal diversity found in natural forests. With recycling, no trees of any type need be cut down. Conservatree reports that recycling one ton of paper can save 24 trees.

Saving trees is just the beginning. Paper recycling, which reduces air pollution and landfill waste, and saves both energy and water, is an easy way to add oomph to a corporate sustainability program. With just a small amount of effort, you can be among the growing number of companies earning kudos for caring for Mother Earth.

Iron Mountain Suggests

With the proper partner, recycling paper can be as easy as maintaining your existing shredding program. Participants in Iron Mountain’s Secure Shredding program have their shredded paper transported to mills where it can be pulped and recycled, keeping data secure and the environment healthy. There are no worries about failing to meet your regulatory obligations for document destruction or about derailing your corporate sustainability goals.

If your shredding program includes plastics, such as CDs or other magnetic media, film, microfiche or even X-rays, you can go greener in these cases, too. Iron Mountain securely destroys the information stored on that media, then works with its partner companies to recycle the raw material. In 2010, Iron Mountain’s partnership with the energy-from-waste facility Covanta Energy recovered more than 8 million pounds of nonhazardous material and converted it into energy.

Do you have questions about secure shredding? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

Related Content

Shredding Key for Overwhelmed Businesses

Routing Out the Rogues: Six Types of Sensitive Records That Often Avoid the Shredder

Coming Soon to a Curb Near You: Shredding