Is Scanning Archives Really More Green Than Keeping Paper?

We have been peppered with messages about paper wiping the earth of its trees for years, and trained to feel guilty about keeping paper around. However, there is a lesser-publicized point of view—where back scanning of archived paper is actually much harder on the environment. Read on for a great green debate on the topic of keeping your paper archives versus scanning them. Corodata offers both Paper and Digital storage, so this message is delivered with no intended bias as a discussion featuring a lesser publicized view of the topic as it directly relates to our industry. Facts in this area are hard to verify given how politicized and commercialized the argument is on so many fronts.

The Case for Paper

Without getting romantic about the feel of a book or making jokes at the expense of computer challenged friends—for many reasons—paper is still a very important material for most commercial enterprises.

Some people still like to use it, others still have to

Whether it is invoices, QC records, employee applications, medical visit notes, purchase orders, contracts or just receipts for expense reports, paper is used each and every day by all of us. Of course there is an electronic alternative to all of these uses, but we are not all ready or equipped to pull this off, so we have to make due for now. Recognizing this reality, the question becomes what to do with after its primary use is absorbed – namely, how do we store and potentially access later for review, audits and the like?

Paper mills are more responsible than ever

Lastly, paper mills are not simply ripping through forests until they meet water. They are responsibly replanting and continuously harvesting this land, as a crop more than a resource. Certainly, there is energy used to do this and must be factored into the debate.

The paper has already been printed

To be blunt, the damage to the tree has already been done. Scanning at this point wastes energy and resources, such as coal, electricity to power up scanners, pc and server usage plus all the parts, materials and deliveries used to manufacturer these machines, and lots of money. Scanning can run up to 10 times more than the lifecycle costs to add, store, and destroy a carton, and is paid up front hurting cash flow.

The Case for Scanning

Limiting Scanning to simply the Green debate may arbitrarily diminish the other values that scanning brings to an organization. There are a handful of exceptions to this stance that may apply to your firm.

Information is instantly available

Our experience tells us that organizations require access to information on an incredibly shrinking scale over time. The highest, yet still not very high, retrieval rates are in the first twelve months, with rates plummeting thereafter until the retention period has lapsed. The argument that scanning keeps vehicles off the road, saving gas, simply doesn’t hold water (or gas) in this case.

Anywhere in the world

Easy access and redundancy are great reasons to scan. Real time conversion of paper to digital for workflow purposes can lead to some great efficiencies and productivity as well. This component of scanning is not to be ignored, but pretty weak as part of any green initiative given that the paper is required to start and always printed.

Recycling only works if paper is recycled

Once paper is created, it begins its defined lifecycle: it becomes printed material, and then sits—in a pile, file, or box–until it is needed. Paper can only give back to the earth again when it is no longer needed, and it is shred and recycled. It’s the perfect lifecycle if you will.

The long and short of it: the choice is yours

  • Scanning can be a great solution and Corodata is here to help
  • If scanning isn’t right for you, there is a great chance our traditional records management solution is a great fit.
  • Scan on Demand retrieval makes a great hybrid tool for many as well.
  • Tell us where you stand on this great debate