The Law Commission of England and Wales released draft legislation that will officially recognise digital versions of trade documents. Essentially, documents in electronic form will be treated in the same way as paper copies. If approved by Parliament, it will increase efficiency, lower operating costs, and reduce the carbon footprint of trade. The wider adoption of electronic documents will also promote international compatibility with paperless trading.

Businesses Help Build a Paper-Free Future

An estimated 1.3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from paper equivalent to 721 metric tons of carbon dioxide. A third of the emissions are from landfills filled with paper products. Even if making new paper requires more energy than recycling it, the emissions from paper waste are equally significant. Paper is used for many things such as writing, communicating, sanitation, packaging, and wrapping, to name a few. Unfortunately, using paper is not a sustainable practice because it has deleterious effects on people and the environment. For example, paper towels may be convenient, but they cannot be recycled because they are soiled. Even unused ones cannot be made into new paper because of their short fibres. One solution is to use fibre cloths and rags in place of paper towels. In bathrooms, smart hand dryers are good alternatives as hand dryers are hygienic and waste-free. Needless to say, a number of businesses and miscellaneous facilities in the UK consider them a must on their premises.

Instead of using trees for paper production, there are several options that are less energy-intensive and polluting compared to tree pulp extraction. To illustrate, agricultural residues such as husks, straw and sugar cane bagasse can work perfectly fine as substitutes. Fibre crops and wild plants can be other alternatives. Bamboo, hemp, jute, and flax are catching up as sources for paper production.

Digitisation of Industry, School, and Private Files

Technological advancements also make it possible for businesses, schools, and even private homes to reduce their reliance on paper. Under the proposed bill, paperless trading and digital signatures will lower trade costs amongst companies and across global enterprises. A paperless policy in offices and e-signatures to authenticate documents eliminate the need for paper copies. Many digital and productivity apps are available as well to manage day-to-day office activities.

As students, storing documents electronically, shifting to e-books, and ditching the pen and paper for note-taking are ways to reduce paper use. School administrators can promote the submission of homework assignments and tests as well as put up resource handouts online to decrease the consumption of paper. Schools tend to overuse paper and spend a lot of money on it. To illustrate, the average primary school student in the UK produces about 45kg of paper waste per year while secondary students 22kg. At home, individuals can switch to digital bills, pay online, and use apps to make notes and to-do lists.

The proposed Electronic Trade Bill could lead to important cost savings and reduction of GHG emissions. Businesses, schools, and private individuals can also go digital to save money, reduce wastage, and protect the environment.