The office paper trail is growing

July 24, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

The solemn-faced man on the video screen has pursed lips, a receding hairline and a warning.

"It needs almost a religious conversion," he cautions as he calls for commitment: "The actual battles are fought on every desk in the organization -- in desk drawers . . . in the minds of all of us."

The threat he warns about is paper. Office paper. And he is serious.

The glut of paper piled up on desks, overloading file cabinets and spilling from bookcases can foil efficiency and make important documents impossible to find.

Workers these days are buried under a confounding profusion of what is technically known as post-consumer white ledger, paper that has been typed on or printed on. And the problem is insidious because the paper just keeps coming -- through the mail and over the fax; in stacks from copying machines and in reams of perforated-edge computer printouts. All this in what was supposed to be a paperless society, a society in which millions of trees were to be spared by cutting-edge technology.

More than 20 years ago, Maurice Colontonio, president of Tab Paper Recycling in Berlin, N.J., heard a lecture on how the advent of computers was going to result in a paperless society. "It never happened," Mr. Colontonio said. Instead, increased computer use has been a boon to his business.

Computers make more information readily available, and people are not content to leave all this newly accessible data on the screen. They print it out to read and then make copies for others. Who make copies for others.

Mr. Colontonio's operation, which includes Tab Shredding Inc., a recycling company, and Tab Corregated Inc., which markets storage boxes made of recycled paper, is a third-generation family business founded by Mr. Colontonio's grandfather in 1925.

What his grandfather started as the "waste paper" business has turned into the more trendy-sounding recycling business. And he anticipates a prosperous future.

By his estimate, office paper recycling -- buoyed by computer use and laws (in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey) requiring recycling -- has grown 600 percent since 1989. With about 2,000 customers at 250 office buildings in Pennsylvania and South Jersey, Mr. Colontonio estimates his business hauls off about 1,000 tons -- two million pounds -- of office paper every month. That's just the paper that people are willing to throw away.

The other stuff is the target of the lecturer in the video, "How to Clear Your Desk: The Paper Chase." Produced by Video Arts Inc., a British firm co-founded by comedian John Cleese in Northbrook, Ill., it addresses the office paper that the nation's pack rats needlessly hang onto and stuff into file drawers, cabinets and cardboard boxes under desks.

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