Paper is one of the most ubiquitous materials in the world. Globally, over 40 percent of trees are used for the manufacturing of paper. Interestingly, paper is number 3 when it comes to the biggest pollutants in water, land, and air. Plus, paper is again number 3 when it comes to the biggest energy consumers amongst all forms of manufacturing. Go to any office location, chances are the biggest constituent of waste is paper or paper-based. An average of at least 70 percent of waste in offices is paper. Despite all this paper remains one of the most used materials worldwide. Let us look at some paper-related business ideas.

Packaging Materials

There are lots of packaging needs in almost any industry. Some quick examples: egg trays, envelopes, all sorts of cardboard boxes, shopping bags, and so many more. You can start a business where you either manufacture or source and sell packaging material. You can just sell them generically or you can also include a customizing and or branding service. There are so many things you can offer under this type of business idea. You just have to ensure you do your market research so that you settle for a lucrative niche.

Food Handling And Catering Materials

There are several food handling and catering materials that are or can be made from paper. Common examples are paper cups, paper plates, and paper towels, just to mention a few. Some of them can be reusable but for the most part, they can be or are consumables. It is wise to sell a wide range of such, spanning from household to other uses e.g. outdoor use. Social events are commonly held nowadays and such products are always needed. Events like weddings, parties, picnics, braais and the like require paper food handling and catering materials.

Printing, Photocopying, Scanning Business

It is remarkable how digital things have gotten over the years. I recall when I was studying Computer Science back in high school – between 2004 and 2007. One of the interesting learning points then for me was the idea of a paperless society. I was so intrigued by the idea that I thought a few years later it would be mainstream. Well, today we still are, at least in Zimbabwe, far off from becoming a paperless society. I am saying this to indicate that there is still a sky-high demand for document printing, photocopying, and scanning services.

With a well-chosen high vehicle and human traffic spot, you can make good money from this. I have been noticing an interesting trend regarding this business. Sure enough, you start this as a standalone business. However, I have been noticing more and more people are adding this line of business to their already existing business. For example, someone can be running a shop, boutique, or any other sort of outlet. Then they add this business as a service as well; a smart and profitable move.

Multimedia Print Media

This is a broad category which includes things like social cards (e.g. birthday cards), calendars, diaries, posters, flyers, wallpaper, and the like. This is also another segment whose services are highly sought after. The beauty of this line of business is that it is pivotal, diversifiable, and scalable as well. For example, running this business it is possible to add on the previous business idea I discussed earlier – printing, and the like. If you roll out it well you can end up handling huge recurring orders from several clients.

Stationery And Learning Supplies

You start a business that focuses on providing stationery and learning supplies. You are looking at things like bond paper, notebooks, school writing books, charts, sticky notes, and the list goes on. This can be a lucrative focus because these items are always sought after. We are still a long way off from a complete shift to total digital learning. Just like the others, there is room for diversifying as well. For example, you can also include the sourcing and selling of textbooks, various books, learning literature, and so much more. For some, you can package everything here into a book store business.

Paper Recycling

When I started this article I mentioned some of the attributes of paper. It is no secret that paper is a menace when it comes to pollution; plastic is the worst culprit. That is where paper recycling comes in to address that challenge. I know there are several recycling businesses in Zimbabwe; that is well and good. However, there remains a huge gap that still needs to be covered. Most of the paper waste in Zimbabwe still ends up in landfills.

In Zimbabwe, almost 2 million tonnes of waste are produced annually. I am always baffled by most of the waste simply goes to waste. Recycling is still riddled with several challenges in Zimbabwe though. If the government and private sector put in place alluring incentives maybe more players can come in. All the same, paper recycling wields interesting business prospects for those who will dare try.

These are 6 paper-related business ideas I thought to share with you today. All of them are a good fit in Zimbabwe and also because they have enormous room for diversification. You can choose to be at the ends or in between. That is, you can manufacture, source and sell, or address downsides brought about by paper consumption. Give paper-related businesses a shot!