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Contrary to popular belief, society is far from being paperless. Despite the ubiquity of electronic communication, a recent survey conducted by the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) found that 82% of respondents still use many forms of paper in their daily lives. Only 5% reported using paper “very little”, and 0.2% said they did not use paper in their daily lives at all.

Jane Molony, executive director of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) says, “The world is changing and so is the way we use paper. We wanted to get a better understanding of how, when, and why people use paper and what they thought about it. What we learnt is that paper – in its countless forms – still holds a prominent place in people’s everyday lives.”

Jane Molony, executive director of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA

Analogue Versus Digital

Do you prefer the screen or the page? That has become one of the defining questions of the digital age. Various forms of the debate come up during tinder dates, casual conversations and whenever it is time to get a receipt. The 1,976 people PAMSA surveyed had this to say:

  • Paper is for pleasure: When reading for fun, respondents preferred paper books and magazines to electronic versions. Just over 32% of participants read paper books, 22% read magazines and 11% enjoyed newspapers. In total, 65% of people who completed the survey preferred paper when reading for leisure.
  • But our bookshelves need boosting: 80% of those who completed the survey admitted that they own 50 books or less with only 8.6% reporting that they own more than 100.
  • Print news is still alive and kicking: Just under a quarter of respondents still get their daily news from newspapers only, while 33% of the participants say they rely on a combination of newspapers and news websites.
  • Consumers needs information about products: A significant 87% of people agreed that labelling and printing on packaging are important to them.
  • Greener on screen?: Unfortunately, 65% of the respondents believe that electronic communication is greener than paper, while 30% responded that it depends on the purpose.
  • Paper is sustainable Just over 64% of respondents correctly believe that paper is sustainably produced in South Africa and some 85% understand paper to be a renewable resource.

“These insights are great news for our sector which has been championing the versatility, renewability, and recyclability of paper through awareness, advocacy and education programmes,” notes Molony.

She adds however that the myths around paper production causing deforestation still abound. “There is a disconnect between people recognising that paper is a sustainable material, but believe that all trees need to be kept in the ground to help our planet.”

“We continue to counter misinformation about paper and print with the science around harvested wood products, and to challenge attitudes about paper and print’s place in society.”

Since the early 2000s, the Internet has been inundated with predictions of paper and print’s “obsolescence”. Decades later, both remain a staple part of our daily lives and South Africans believe that this will not change anytime soon. When asked if they believe print is dead, 55% of respondents disagreed. So, despite, what you may hear, print and paper are very much alive and kicking.

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