How To Reduce Paper, Ink, and Toner Waste in Marketing (2024)



Somebody lied. The emergence of email and the rising cost of paper and postage was supposed to reduce the amount of paper used for advertising and marketing. Now both our virtual and physical mailboxes are stuffed with advertisements. How much paper, ink, and toner is used for marketing? How can it be reduced?

How Much Ink and Toner is Used in Marketing?

The amount of ink and toner used in marketing can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the size of the mailing or ad campaign, the type of printer or copier used, and the design.

Based on the average page yields of toner cartridges, a standard laser printer uses about 1/3 of an ounce of toner for every 500-1000 sheets of paper, while an inkjet printer may use a similar amount of ink for the same amount of pages. 

The actual amount used can also depend on the specific model of the printer, the type of paper used, and the printing quality settings. Direct mail marketing can involve printing thousands of pieces, so the amount of ink and toner used can be substantial. 

Specialized inks are used extensively in product packaging. This can make them difficult to recycle. 

How Much Paper Is Used In Marketing?

The processed paper used for writing and printing has many important uses in education, government, and business. Artists and educators still need paper! But the advertising and marketing industry is a notorious paper hog.

Marketing materials such as flyers, brochures, business cards, and direct mailers require significant amounts of paper, ink, and toner. The amount of paper used for circulars can vary depending on the size, format, and distribution.

Sales circulars featuring clip-out coupons are typically printed on lightweight paper, such as newsprint, which is less expensive than other paper types.

According to Statista, 4.4 million tons of newsprint were consumed in the U.S. in 2019. While the EPA estimates nearly 65% of newsprint is recycled, it still leaves approximately 1.5 million tons of paper waste—much of it marketing based—in landfills.

Paper and Paperboard Waste Management: 1960-2018

Paper and Paperboard Waste Management: 1960-2018

This graph from the EPA shows how paper recycling has grown and become more efficient over the decades. Yet millions of tons of paper waste still end up in landfills. (Source: EPA)

Paper, Ink, and Toner Waste in Marketing

Businesses, both large and small, still invest in printed marketing materials, including

Print Advertising — Magazines and newspapers, especially trade publications, are still going strong, supported by print advertising dollars.

Flyers — Printed flyers remain a popular way to reach customers, especially for small local businesses. But flyers are frequently overprinted and often tossed away.

Brochures — Simple tri-folded pamphlets are still popular in doctors’ offices and tourist centers. But when it the last time you picked one up?

Posters — colorful posters make a great visual impression, from billboards to bus stops to the local multiplex. Posters are essential for certain marketing applications but are expensive to produce and require a lot of ink.

Business cards — every business professional carries a pocketful of business cards using specialized ink and thick cardstock. Are business cards still an effective marketing tool? Regardless of the answer, there’s no question they use significant ink and paper resources.

Tradeshow Promotions — Every industry has a trade show, including tons of printed materials, from large format visual displays to stacks of flyers and brochures to logo-laden “freebies” given to visitors and guests. Most of these promotional materials use ink and paper, sometimes in large quantities.

Packaging — Your products use a lot of specialized ink in their packaging. And the cardboard boxes they come in use a lot of paper.

Direct Mail Marketing — “Junk” mail is still alive and well, clogging up your mailbox like a faulty toilet. Direct mail is the biggest culprit of paper, ink, and toner waste in marketing. The United States Post Office delivered 66.2 billion pieces of marketing mail in 2022, up from 64.1 billion pieces in 2020. 

The Number of Mail Pieces Attributed to Direct Mail in the United States, 2018 to 2021

Number of Mail Pieces Attributed to Direct Mail in the United States 2018 to 2021


How Direct Marketing has Gotten More Sophisticated

Due to advancements in technology and data analysis, direct marketing has become more sophisticated over the years. Here are a few ways in which direct marketing has evolved:

  1. Personalization: Direct marketers can now personalize their marketing messages based on a customer's past interactions and behaviors. This can be done using customer data, including purchase history and website behavior.

  2. Data Analytics: Direct marketers can now access advanced data analytics tools that track and analyze customer behavior in real time. This data can create targeted marketing campaigns and optimize marketing efforts.

  3. Multi-Channel Marketing: Direct marketers can now reach customers through multiple channels, including email, mobile, social media, and direct mail. This allows them to deliver a more comprehensive and integrated marketing experience.

  4. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Direct marketers use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to automate their marketing efforts and to make more informed decisions.

    For example, AI can predict customer behavior, generate personalized marketing messages, and automate segmentation and targeting.

  5. Cross-Device Marketing: Direct marketers can track customer behavior across multiple devices, including desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets. This allows them to deliver a consistent and cohesive marketing experience, regardless of the device being used.

Overall, these advancements in technology and data analysis have allowed direct marketers to be more effective and efficient in their efforts, resulting in a more sophisticated approach to direct marketing.

Direct Mail Marketing Spending in the United States in 2021 and 2022

Direct Mail Marketing Spending in the United States in 2021 and 2022


The Environmental Impact of Paper Waste in Marketing

Paper waste in marketing has a significant environmental impact. Over 100 million trees are cut down each year just to produce junk mail and other paper-based marketing efforts, according to "The Environmental Impact of Junk Mail" report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The EPA puts the recycling rate for junk mail at approximately 43.1%. An estimated 51 million tons of harmful greenhouse gases are generated by producing and disposing of paper wasted on marketing efforts.

Export volume of paper and pulp in the US, 2021

Export volume of paper and pulp in the US 2021

It’s reassuring to see so much recovered/recycled paper in use, but more can be done to reduce paper waste. (Statista)

What Can Be Done About Paper Waste in Marketing?

Reducing paper waste in marketing can be achieved through several means, including

  1. Digital Marketing: Adopting digital marketing strategies such as email marketing, social media advertising, and online content can significantly reduce paper waste in marketing.

  2. Print On Demand: Instead of printing large quantities of marketing materials, only print what is needed on demand. (Here is where to find the lowest prices on toner and ink!)

  3. Recycled Paper: If printing is necessary, use recycled paper, which reduces the demand for virgin paper and saves trees.

  4. Reduce Printing: Minimize the amount of paper used in marketing by printing on both sides, using smaller font sizes, and reducing margins.

  5. Print double-sided: When printing, businesses should always print double-sided. This reduces the amount of paper used and can cut printing costs by up to 50%.

  6. Eco-friendly Packaging: Use eco-friendly packaging materials for marketing products, such as biodegradable plastics.

    Many eco-friendly ink and toner options are now available on the market, which can significantly reduce the environmental impact of printing. Also, consider using eco-friendly fonts when printing.

  7. Encourage recycling: Finally, businesses should encourage their customers and employees to recycle any marketing materials that they no longer need. This reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and helps to conserve valuable resources.

By implementing these strategies, businesses can help reduce paper waste, protect the environment, and promote sustainability in marketing.

Additional Resources

Rob Errera

Rob Errera

Rob Errera is an award-winning journalist embedded in the world of printers and printing supplies. Rob has nearly two decades of experience writing about cutting edge technology, business trends, and the ever-evolving industry of printing.

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