A New Way to ‘Recycle’ Paper

Traditional paper recycling may take weeks including collection, delivery to the plant as well as the process itself. Would it not be easier if we could just recycle the paper in our homes or in the office directly?

Researchers at Cambridge University are now investigating the options to erase ink from printed paper, so they can be re-used immediately on the spot. They have tested several lasers at removing or rather vapourising toner from the paper and successfully managed to do so without damaging the paper. What’s more, a paper can be used up to five times.

‘Unprinting’ can thus not only save time and money but also save fresh water, electricity and reduce carbon emissions, which would be generated by the recycling industry.

While the Cambridge-based scientists used conventional paper with conventional ink, Toshiba developed its erasable toner system in 2003, which may soon come to Europe. The e-Blue ink fades if heated to above 130 Celsius degrees, but is currently only available in blue. Japanese companies who already able to test the solution managed to save about 40-60 per cent on paper usage. According to some data it takes about two hours to erase about 200 pages with this system. Due to issues with high power consumption and being very expensive, Toshiba is now working on more favourable successors.

Disappearing ink has already been tested as well. A few years ago, Xerox was working on an ink that would disappear after 16-24 hours, which could be ideal for industries, where printed materials are not needed for longer than this. One of the best applications may be the printed daily menus of restaurants.

With so many different research projects on how to avoid the lengthy and energy-intensive process of paper recycling, hopefully in the near future we will be able to easily recycle our own paper. The best solution however still may be to think before printing.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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