Paper Waste in Schools

Classrooms rely on paper for everything from worksheets, to textbooks, to standardized tests. Teachers hand out hundreds of papers a week, and students throw away dozens. Because the average American wastes other resources daily without batting an eye, most don’t realize the strain wasting so much paper will put on the environment. While recycling is a highly suggested option, paper can only be reused so many times before becoming useless.

Paper waste in schools is unnecessary and needs to not only be acknowledged, but solved.

Every 10 days the school orders 35 cases of paper. Each case contains 10 reams or sleeves, which has 500 sheets of paper inside each ream. A school with under 3,000 students shouldn’t require 175,000 pieces of paper every two weeks, especially when it’s being used unnecessarily, such as information packets that most students throw away and could just as easily be sent to parents through email. Since July 2016, the main teacher workroom copiers have copied and printed 7,201,999 pieces of paper, which doesn’t include printers in different buildings and classrooms.

Mostly softwood trees such as fir and pine are used in paper making because of the strength they can provide. The average tree harvested for paper can make 16.67 reams of paper, unfortunately the majority of trees harvested for paper are not actually used for paper, just scraps and pieces. Based off numbers from only the main teacher workroom the amount of paper the school used in little over a year would equal approximately 900 trees.


Eighty percent of Earth’s land plants and animals live in forests, which are in danger of deforestation. In America alone 3.5 to 7 billion trees are cut down every year, destroying habitats for millions of species. The world’s rainforest could vanish completely in a hundred years if deforestation continues at the rate it is now. Deforestation also affects humans negatively due to the trees providing protection for the soil. Without a canopy blocking the sun the soil will dry out and lead to extreme temperature changes and will affect the water cycle.

Those who believe paper isn’t being wasted say that the school has cut back on paper use a lot over the years by printing on both sides of a piece of paper and using more class sets. Some also say that more advanced courses require more paper because of the assignments they have to give to students. Every state also has laws about replanting any trees that are cut down and logging companies are required to replant trees, but the rate which trees are planted are a fraction to what is cut down every year.

School’s can cut back on paper use by having information packets sent to parents through email rather than having printed papers given to students who throw the majority of it away.

Teachers can assign more assignments online and use technology rather than paper, which will save hundreds of trees a year.

Schools can also limit the amount of paper a teacher is allowed to print a week to encourage using technology to assign classwork and homework.

Students should also be held responsible for their work, such as when they lose papers they should not be able to get multiple copies because they are irresponsible.

Though cutting back on paper seems difficult because we rely on it for our everyday lives, paper waste has gotten out of hand and someone needs to do something. The amount of trees that are killed every year has become too extreme and will affect our world for generations to come if it is not dealt with immediately.

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About Jessica Harden

Hey, I'm Jessica Harden and this is my third year on staff. I am the editor-in-chief, I compete in academic UIL journalism, and I am a nationally recognized journalist. Outside of newspaper, I play the flute and I am the drum major. I like to write poetry, I collect vintage cameras, and I dream of being a published author one day. I will attend UT Austin in the fall majoring in journalism at Moody College and I plan on taking a minor in environmental science. Hook 'Em!

One thought on “Paper Waste in Schools

  1. Honestly, switching to digital could help solve this problem. And everyone knows that most information the teachers want parents to have never make it to the parent, they almost immediately get thrown away. And schools haven’t cut back a lot on paper usage like most think, it’s stayed around the same. Advanced courses that “require more work” can be done online, in fact almost all work assignments could be done online. Libraries are rarely used if someone doesn’t have access to internet at home, which in all honesty is rare.

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