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A paper trail to net zero carbon

Our national NHS target to reach Net Zero Carbon by 2040 will mean we have to make some changes to how we work. One easy win is paper; using 100% recycled paper makes a big difference to our carbon footprint.

Shredded Paper

A net zero NHS

The Delivering a Net Zero NHS report sets out how reducing paper use and changing the type of paper we use is key to achieving a net zero supply chain. It directly supports other targets, such as using 100% recycled paper and buying 100% recycled copier paper by 2025.

NHS England and Improvement have put together a useful ‘how to’ guide on reducing carbon emissions from copy paper.

The link between paper and carbon emissions

Trees are really useful for absorbing carbon dioxide, however they need to remain growing for long periods of time to effectively absorb enough from our atmosphere. Even by replanting forests there is still an imbalance as saplings take ten years to start absorbing carbon – and absorb it most effectively after 100 years.

No one person alive today would be able to make sure a young forest planted today would survive for a century without being burned, felled, etc. As the other impacts of climate change accelerate such as wildfires, caused by changing weather patterns.

Woodland area

This is why it is so key that we buy and use recycled paper certified by organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). As paper that isn’t recycled ends up in landfill or incineration, which brings yet more carbon emissions. Recycling as much as possible helps reduce that carbon impact and in buying recycled paper we’re supporting that recycling process.

Whether you are buying the paper in, or using it for your work, making the change to recycled has a big impact. At SCFT only recycled paper is available to order through the supply chain – 34% of Trusts already use 100% recycled paper, and the goal is for all Trusts to do this by 2025.

Getting paper savvy

When you can’t avoid using paper make sure it is recycled, but if you can go digital and avoid paper all together that is ideal.

Remote working and virtual meetings have become an essential part of many roles, highlighting the value of this switch from improving accessibility, and reducing admin, to the financial and carbon savings. Digital documents are also far easier to store, share and amend.

Supporting the reduction of paper use and using fully recycled paper, aligns quite nicely with our Sustainable Healthcare Principles, specifically Respecting Resources and Streamlined Processes and Pathways, as set out in our Green Plan.

If you need some more inspiration, the waste top tips page of our website has some useful tips on how to get paper savvy or you can make our ‘paper cut’ pledge here.