Print, Recycle, Print, Recycle, …

by Mazimran Yusoff

There is a big concern in the office about how much we are using paper and ink cartridges. Not surprising for an educational institution. Despite efforts to keep documents electronically, many still prefer to have hard copies of their documents.

Some people, including myself, are still using pen and paper when reviewing documents such as long reports.

If we still cannot totally free ourselves from the use of paper and ink, I wonder what technology can be used to cut down the use of paper.

We are already using recycled paper for some of our documents. By this I mean we use both sides of each piece of paper. Once, both sides are used, we send the paper for recycling.

Sending paper for recycling is quite a hassle. We need to put aside the recyclable waste paper and stack it up until they are collected. The hoarders among us will have problems deciding if an unused document can be sent for recycling. I am a hoarder and I miss collection dates. Every year, I would spend one day putting aside paper that I need to send for recycling and make sure I do not miss the recycling man.

It would be nice if someone can invent a machine that can recycle paper to be used for future printing. Better still if that machine is built into a printer. We can put our used paper into the machine and it will recycle the paper and use the recycled paper for new rounds of prints.

We can also have a printer that can recycle paper by clearing away the ink or stains on the used paper and re-use the now blank sheet. We can burn away the ink with laser like how tattoo can be removed with laser. A potential fire hazard? I trust the engineers.

We may also use solvents to dissolve away the ink. What will make a good solvent for such a purpose? What do we do with the waste ink solution? If we discard, we have to ensure that the ink and the solvent for washing is not toxic. The amount to discard may also pose a problem. We can consider recycling the ink. Wash away the ink from the paper that is recycled and reuse it for new prints.

Even if I don’t get my environmentally friendly printer, I believe some new innovations would come by to address the persistent use of paper despite electronic alternatives. More importantly, the innovations have to be affordable.

Refresh my memory please. Why are we still printing?



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