A new survey commissioned by paper advocacy group Two Sides has revealed that numerous environmental myths about paper persist among the European public, despite an enduring love for print.
6,000 consumers from across the continent (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the UK) were surveyed by independent research company Toluna on their environmental concerns and preferences relating to paper.
The findings showed that 60% of consumers believed European forests are shrinking – when in fact over a 10-year period they have been growing by an equivalent of 1,500 football pitches every day, according to Two Sides.
Meanwhile, only a fifth of those surveyed believed the paper recycling rate in Europe exceeds 60%, whereas the true figure is reportedly over 72%, while 53% believed that paper production uses an excessive amount of water, while 93% of water is reportedly returned to the environment after treatment.
And while 75% of those surveyed believed it is important to use paper products from sustainably-managed forests, only 34% said they pay attention to forestry certification labels when coming to purchase paper products.
Two Sides said this could be explained, however, by a lack of awareness of two of the major certification schemes, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), with only 34% of respondents aware of FSC and 27% aware of PEFC.
The survey also asked respondents to rank the environmental impact of several common materials and products. Consumers believed wood to have the least environmental impact, closely followed by glass and paper. Plastic was considered to have the worst impact on the environment.
Two Sides country manager Greg Selfe told PrintWeek: “The forestry misconceptions and the misunderstanding of the recycling rate of paper in the UK and in Europe have always been at the core of the Two Sides campaign.
“Our ‘Love Paper’ campaign focuses specifically on those messages and that has reached tens of millions of consumers throughout Europe, which we’d like to think has been a contributing factor in improvements in understanding.
“We conduct similar surveys every couple of years and the trends do show an increase in understanding and perception of these topics, but there is clearly still a lot of work to do.
“But while there is an aspect of the industry needing to do more, and perhaps even Two Sides ourselves doing more to reach consumers, as we have increasingly been doing, I think that a lot of this is still coming from service providers, banks and other big bodies that continue to put out messages such as ‘go online to help save a tree’, ‘go green, go paperless’ or ‘by using paper you are destroying forests’.
“Those messages will always reach many more people than what Two Sides and the industry can reach through our own channels.”
The survey also found that print came out on top when it came to reading books, magazines and newspapers.
69% of respondents said that print is the most enjoyable way to read books, 61% said they prefer to read magazines in print and 54% said print is the most enjoyable way to read a newspaper.
Furthermore, 70% said they believe it is important to ‘switch off’ and read more in print while 45% said they believe they spend too much time on electronic devices.
The push to ‘switch to digital’ by financial organisations and service providers, meanwhile, has proved unpopular with many consumers, with 78% of respondents saying they believe they have the right to choose how they receive their communications (electronically or printed).