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Can you live without paper?

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Can you live without paper?

January 29, 2012 - 23:39

NEW YORK, Jan. 30, 2012 (RISI) -While publishers and media companies keep a laser-focus on e-readers and the Internet, teenagers and young adults seem reluctant to abandon their paper use completely. In a recent survey, younger Europeans replied that paper is still their preferred choice for everyday items such as coupons, tickets, newspapers and paychecks. In other areas, paper conveys an authority and trust that the digital has yet to achieve.

Looking at the increasing presence of the Internet and digital communication in young people's lives, the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) conducted a survey of young Europeans between the ages of 16 and 26 to see how they perceived and used paper. Was it still part of young people's daily lives or quickly becoming a thing of the past? The objective was to gather enough information to see what future trends lay in store for the pulp and paper industry.

The survey focused on three key areas: environmental perception of using paper; preference and reasons of paper vs. digital; and paper consumption. In addition, the survey asked several subjective questions on the emotional and personal feelings about paper use. All of the participants were enrolled as students or had recently graduated, and many of the interviews were conducted in person.

Could they live without paper?

Nine of out 10 young people surveyed are heavy users of social media networks. The most popular was Facebook, with each participant having an average of 408 ‘friends', indicating a high comfort level and proficiency with digital communication. In the survey group, young women were generally more active on social networks than young men in all age groups.

But more than 80% responded that they could not live without paper because they think:

  • paper is useful - 70%
  • paper is necessary - over 50%
  • paper needs to be around - 50%

When looking at paper consumption, 72% of the young adults surveyed used paper daily to write, with young women outpacing the men. And young women 16 - 18 used paper to draw on a regular basis, although none of the other groups reported drawing as a frequent activity.

Some of the more frequent uses of paper included:

  • printing on a weekly basis
  • writing on a daily basis
  • photocopying on a monthly basis
  • sending envelopes and parcels on a monthly basis

When do they prefer paper?

Paper still carries weight with young people on many issues that are linked to the emotional and private, when it involves official or documents that need to be trusted, and in organization issues.

Young people preferred to use paper to:

  • send a love note - 92%
  • for an celebrity autograph - 87%
  • a birthday card - 87%
  • a letter - 67%
  • an invitation - 59%

When using official documentation, paper was most preferred for diplomas (92%) and contracts (71%). Magazines were also preferred in paper by 68% of those surveyed. When it comes to trusting paper, 83% believed that digital is easier to modify and paper is less likely to be falsified or "hacked."

Young adults still organized themselves on paper because paper continues to be more efficient and faster for:

  • shopping lists - 81%
  • note-taking in school - 72%
  • note-taking at work - 67%
  • to-do lists - 66%

There were many places were digital technology has supplanted paper use for young adults. But most of these preferences mirror the trends of the general population.

Young people use digital technology most when:

  • capturing moments - digital photos are preferred by 75%
  • getting banking information - digital bank statements are preferred by 58%
  • applying for a job - digital CVs and resumes are preferred by 58%
  • keeping a calendar - digital appointments applications are preferred by 51%

What about the environmental impact?

Young women appear to be more concerned about the environmental impact of paper than young men, and these concerns increase among the age groups. There may be a correlation to the NGO's environmental campaigns directly addressed at the same target audience. Curiously, there was an absence of awareness for the environmental impact of the digital, where only 32% felt concerned.

In general, the web is seen as more environmentally friendly than paper. The survey concludes this may be due to young people associating the ‘free' or ‘no cost' of the Internet with a ‘little' to ‘no cost' on the environment. In other words, there is a ‘gratuity element' attached to the web that paper does not bear.

Finally, most of the young people in the survey understand the recycling potential of paper. Many choose it over other non-easily recyclable products. These perceptions about recycling and environmental awareness appear to indicate that media campaigns are playing big roles in affecting and changing the way young adults view digital and paper. It also means that young people are making their own decisions about when and where they want paper in their lives.

For more information on the survey and to watch a video about the participants, go towww.cepi.org.