Guest Post: reducing paper waste in university settings

Today’s post comes from Nikunj Sharma, a 4th year student at Amity University in India.  He is working on biodiesel from microalgae and is also interested in energy economics and sustainable development.  His post highlights issues of paper waste with some useful calculations of how many trees could be conserved and proposes a solution for university situations.

A centralized unit should be proposed in every educational institute where the students donate their lecture notes and class notes. The official one sided sheets are also collected. The one sided sheets on which the content is not reused is used to prepare rough notes and to be sold back to the students at low cost. The lecture notes could then be distributed to the students on a first come first serve basis. The students will earn credit points depending on the quality and quantity of the lecture notes.  Photocopies of the question papers and the assignment sheets submitted. This will enable the students to reduce the cost of photocopying and enable the maximum utilization of the study material from the senior students. In turn, paper is saved because it avoids the photocopying of the same stuff which is already available.

Considering some general information regarding data getting photocopied are:

No of Students in one class – Approximately 250

No of Subjects – 7

Approximate No. of Notes getting photocopied- 7*40*250 = 70,000 pages

This is a rough approximation for one semester and one batch.

Considering the life cycle analysis of trees used for paper making. Assuming pine trees are 60 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter which approximately weigh 1700 pounds. Assume 50% of the tree content is not suitable for paper making: it is used for some other purposes. So  850 pounds of paper will be produced by one pine tree. In a stock of paper used for photocopied there are 500 pages which weighs around 20 pounds. So according to these figures, the number of pages produced by 850 pounds of wood will be :-

850/5*500 = 85,000

You can get more details from here –

The conclusion is that we are using nearly one tree for completing one semester of studies. Therefore if we have eight semesters of study in total:

That will be more or less 6 to 7 trees. This calls for some urgent green action in universities where students are dependent on lots of photocopies.

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