The Great Paper Perception Gap (

The difference between people’s perception of the impact of paper on the environment and fact has been highlighted in a groundbreaking study by Two Sides

Of all the world’s materials, paper is perhaps the most misunderstood. While no one doubts the environmental damage the burning of fossil fuels and disposal of single-use plastics is doing to the planet, there’s still a lot of confusion around paper and how its use affects the climate.

To counter the many misconceptions about print and paper, and its impact on the environment, Two Sides commissioned a wide-ranging European study to assess people’s perceptions of paper and the often large differences between these perceptions and fact.

Not only did the study uncover a series of common misconceptions about paper, but it underlined the enduring value paper and print has in a society increasingly dominated by digital media.

Perception vs fact
There’s little doubt that people all over the world are concerned about the environment. Unusual weather patterns, general rises in temperature and irreversible damage to the natural world are making individuals and businesses question their role in climate change and understand more about these alarming trends.

But when it comes to paper, there’s a significant gap between assumption and fact. One key finding from the research was that 60% of consumers believe that European forest are shrinking, when in fact, European forests have grown by 44,000km2 in the past 10 years – that’s the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches every day.1 Indeed, just 10% of the French, Austrian, British, Scandinavians, Germans and Italians interviewed believe that European forests have actually been growing in size, demonstrating the skepticism people have about the positive environmental impact of the paper industry.

High recycling rate, low perception
Of course, one of the major reasons paper is a sound environmental choice for media, communications and packaging is its ability to be recycled a number of times, and it’s heartening to note that Europeans perceive paper to have the highest recycling rate of all major materials. However, only a fifth of those surveyed believe the paper recycling rate in Europe exceeds 60%, while the true figure is over 72%, close to the practical maximum recycling rate of 78%.

“The report reveals an interesting insight into how print and paper is viewed by the public,” says Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Sides. “It’s positive to see both wood and paper are viewed as low environmental impact materials, but the misconceptions around forestry and recycling rates have highlighted the necessity to raise awareness in these areas.”
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