Get rid of metal staples and green your office


Photo courtesy of
littlenelly at Flickr.com.

Staples really bite. If you’ve ever caught your finger on the teeth of a staple or ruined important documents with a hungry stapler, you probably don’t appreciate these sharp little metal doodads. Well, the planet doesn’t appreciate them either.

Staples are wasteful and have a huge carbon footprint. The most common type of office staple is made with galvanized steel – that’s steel that’s been re-heated and coated with a layer of zinc. As you can imagine, this double heating process is a pretty energy intensive task. From mining and transporting ore, to smelting and forming the staples one at a time from wire spools, staples gobble up energy at every step of their production and use. This energy use causes millions of tons of pollution.

Since staples are tiny, they rarely get recycled. In fact, they often increase the cost of recycling paper because they contaminate the recycling stream and can jam machinery. In paper recycling centers, the staples are pulled from the line by powerful magnets and screening filters, and then they’re thrown away as a recycling byproduct.

So what does the office of the future look like? How do you bind pages together without using staples?

Photo courtesy of
gordasm at Flickr.com.

Instead of adding a piece of scrap metal to your documents, a staple free stapler cuts a tiny strip of paper and then threads that strip through the other documents. No staples are harmed, and you’ll never be frustrated by a staple shortage. Unfortunately, there are some limitations to the technology. It only works on a small number of pages, generally 2-7 sheets of paper of normal thickness. So, unless you want to make a new “un-staple” every 5 pages in a document (and mess with offsetting those marks), these are best suited for short memos rather than binding training manuals.

If your office uses a lot of short notes and you don’t want to waste time going to the office supply store all the time, perhaps one of these metal-free staplers is the answer. Otherwise, you might want to consider an older technology – the paperclip!


Photo courtesy of
sabor.tijuana at Flickr.com.

3 Comments

  1. Very interesting. Do you have a technical source for the carbon footprint of metal staples, please?

  2. Staples are made from various materials (stainless steel, Monel, Inconel, copper, brass, bronze), so it’s tricky to pin down their carbon footprint. Different gauges of wire are also used, along with slightly different sizes.

    To calculate the carbon footprint of a staple, I’ll multiply the weight of the staple by the amount of carbon emitted for steel production. That probably understates the carbon footprint by a substantial amount (forming and bending steel wire uses more energy than forming larger blocks of steel, plus it doesn’t take into account the emissions from transportation or packaging).

    According to these sources:
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_does_a_staple_weigh

    http://www.steel.org/news/newsletters/2009_02/energy_efficiency.htm

    1.14 tons of carbon dioxide was emitted in 2007 for every ton of steel produced in the United States
    &
    Staples weigh approximately 33 mg

    So, each staple is responsible for ~37.62 mg of carbon.

    1 Ton = 907184740 Milligrams
    1 Pound = 453592.37 Milligrams

    So, each staple accounts for ~0.0000000415 tons of carbon dioxide or ~0.0000829 lbs of CO2.

    Saving a box of staples (with 5,000 staples per box) is equivalent to saving about half a pound of CO2 emissions, if my math checks out. That’s minor compared to some other carbon saving steps, but still worthwhile.

    Carbon efficiency is improving rapidly, but there are still many staple producers that use older, more heavily polluting factories.

  3. HA!

    I will use all the staples I can! As much as I can every year! I will double staple everything! Ha ha ha I’m an evil American!

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