The Environmental Impact of Paper Flyers & Catalogues

The Promotional Products Industry Has a Deforestation Problem

By David Betke

The promotional products industry heavily relies on paper products for its marketing materials, such as flyers, catalogues and brochures. Unfortunately, this has a significant impact on our environment. This article will discuss the environmental impact of catalogues and flyers, changing end-user attitudes towards catalogue dumps, and alternatives that can reduce environmental impacts while improving sales.

The Impacts of the Excessive Use of Paper on Our Environment

How much paper is used annually for B2B catalogues?

Based on data from Emerald's Elastic Suite, it is estimated that approximately 184 billion double-sided catalogue pages are printed annually for B2B catalogues across 16 industries. This amounts to a staggering 1185 square kilometres (4,288 square miles) of paper every year. The impact of this much paper on the environment (as calculated by the EPN Paper Calculator) is:

• B2B catalogues consume 46 million trees every year

• logging this many trees disrupts a land area larger than the state of Rhode Island every year

• uses enough energy to power 67 million residential refrigerators for one year  

• produces co2 emissions equal to almost 4 million cars driven annually

• uses the amount of water used by 39 million residential clothes washers every year

• produces solid waste equal to the trash created by 1.7 million people. That's the residential trash created by a city the size of Montreal every year

Do we need to print all these catalogues? 

Trade Show Waste

Changing B2B Attitudes Towards Promotional Catalogue Dumps 

Sustainability has become an important consideration for consumers, and they expect companies to take responsibility for reducing their environmental impact. This consumer behaviour shift has also affected how B2B companies approach promotional catalogue dumps. Traditionally, these marketing materials involved printing large quantities of catalogues and distributing them to as many potential customers as possible.

However, with the heightened awareness of environmental issues, B2B companies have come under increasing pressure to adopt more sustainable marketing practices. This means rethinking traditional promotional catalogue dumps and finding ways to reduce their impact on the environment.

By embracing digital marketing, targeting specific customer segments, and adopting more sustainable printing practices, promotional businesses can reduce their environmental impact while still achieving their marketing goals. 

Alternatives to Paper Flyers & Catalogues

What alternatives are available for paper flyers and catalogues?

There are several alternatives to paper flyers and catalogues that businesses can explore. 

One approach has been to move away from physical print altogether and focus on digital marketing. By creating online assets, businesses can reach a wider audience without printing and shipping physical material. This also allows for easier updates and reduces the amount of waste generated from outdated catalogues.

Another option is to reduce the number of catalogues and flyers produced and distribute them more strategically. By targeting specific customer segments and only sending printed materials to those most likely to purchase, businesses can reduce waste while still achieving their marketing goals.

Finally, if you must print, use recycled paper made from a high percentage of post-consumer fibre and print with environmentally friendly ink.

What are the benefits of going paperless for businesses?

Going paperless has numerous benefits for businesses, including cost savings, increased productivity, and a reduced environmental impact. By eliminating the need for paper products, companies can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to global conservation efforts. Digital record-keeping can also make it easier for companies to manage their information and track their progress.


The promotional products industry must decrease its dependence on paper-based marketing materials and explore more eco-friendly options. Paper production contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, landfill waste, and air pollution. It also requires significant amounts of water and energy.

Suppliers can save on printing, shipping, and storing physical catalogues by going paperless. Digital versions can be easily updated and distributed to customers, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming reprints. In addition, digital catalogues can be accessed from anywhere, making it more convenient for customers to find and purchase products.

Finally, distributors must begin refusing printed catalogues and implement digital strategies to serve end-users. For example, we promised to discontinue ordering from a supplier who wouldn't stop sending catalogues after multiple requests to cease. Don't be that supplier who scratches their head wondering why that five-figure account vanished.


Q: What are the social and environmental impacts of the promo industry's reliance on paper flyers and catalogues?

A: The promo industry's reliance on paper flyers and catalogues contributes to deforestation, the depletion of natural resources, and the release of pollutants into the air and water. This can have significant social and environmental impacts, including climate change and the loss of wildlife habitat.

Q: How much paper is produced every year?

A: The global paper supply is around 400 million tons annually.

Q: How do paper flyers and catalogues impact our environment?

A: The pulp and paper industry is a large contributor to the world's greenhouse gas emissions (2% of all emissions from industry), and paper production contributes to pollution in various forms, including paper waste, chlorine, air pollution, and water pollution. Paper manufacturing also significantly impacts our environment in terms of deforestation and the use of natural resources.

Q: What are the environmental effects of manufacturing paper?

A: Manufacturing paper involves using wood pulp sourced from forests and requires large amounts of water and energy. Pulp and paper manufacturing also discharges pollutants into the air and water, including sulphur, dioxin, and chlorine, which can contribute to acid rain and other negative environmental impacts.

Q: How has the production of paper affected air and water quality?

A: Pulp and paper production has contributed to air and water pollution, with paper mills emitting pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and chlorine into the air and discharging waste products such as dioxin into water sources.

Q: What is the significance of chlorine in producing paper?

A: Chlorine is used in the bleaching process of paper production, which can release harmful environmental chemicals, including dioxin and other toxic substances.

Q: What are some forest management practices that can mitigate the impact of paper?

A: Sustainable forest management practices that can help reduce the impact of paper include responsible tree harvesting (FSC-certified paper), replanting of trees, and using high post-consumer recycled content in paper production.

About The Author

David Betke has dedicated his career to helping brands that give back, make a bigger difference. His campaigns have helped save a 65 000-acre forest forever, reduced carbon emissions in a city measurably, and helped recruit three senior engineers during the height of a labor crisis. One even generated a 6000% return within six months and attracted a couple of great customers for life. David has been personally recognized with seven national marketing awards.