Paperless office? 2.8 trillion pages printed in 2020, down by 14% or 450 billion sheets

Big brands might take solace that in 2025, 4.4 million pages will still be printed every minute


Around 450 billion fewer pages were printed from home and office devices in 2020 as COVID-19 disrupted the world of work.

The direction of travel has been obvious in recent times: people were printing less even before the pandemic took hold, but the decline was sharper last year as volumes plunged 14 per cent on 2019 levels to a total of 2.8 trillion pages, according to IDC.

Page volumes 2018-2025

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Unsurprisingly, employees being asked to stay indoors and work from home caused the number of laser pages printed to fall 16 per cent, a drop that was even more pronounced for A3 devices.

Conversely, pages printed on inkjet printers went up by 4 per cent compared to the prior 12 months. Inkjets were typically used mostly for personal printing before COVID-19 turned the world upside down.

According to IDC's 2021 end-user survey of 4,700 people, about 50 per cent of the pages printed at home were work-related documents. In Western Europe, for example, some 15 per cent of pages were printed for school/ education needs and the rest for personal stuff.

IDC printing survey

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These dynamics could be seen in the financial results of the biggest print vendor: HP's commercial print hardware revenue shrank 22 per cent to $923m for its entire fiscal 2020 ended October. Its consumer print hardware grew 21 per cent to $772m and its supplies business was down 1 per cent to $3.159bn.

IDC forecasts a 2 per cent rebound in page volumes for 2021 and a return to the declining trend from next year, falling faster than pre-COVID days as many employees mix up working from home with commuting to the office or other sites.

According to Gartner, 47 per cent of knowledge workers will work remotely next year, up from 19 per cent in 2019.

Illona Stankeova, IDC Europe senior research director for Imaging Devices & Document Solutions, said: "Pages printed at home will not offset declines in offices as organisations and governments continue to pursue paperless initiatives and digital transformation agendas."

She estimates that people of the world will print 2.3 trillion pages in 2025. "Despite this decline this amount still represents about 4.4 million pages being printed globally every minute covering the area of 39 footballs fields every minute."

A typical 500-sheet packet of paper was estimated by the Sierra Club to weigh five pounds, equating to roughly 10,000 to 20,000 sheets per tree. ®

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