A new paper-making machine from Japan promises to revolutionize how offices recycle. Instead of sending away millions of pages to be reconstituted somewhere, it could allow organizations to do everything on-site. Companies may be about to close-the-loop on their paper usage.
Called the PaperLab, the machine comes from the printer giant, Seiko Epson. You input used paper in one end, hit a button, and have virgin paper again at the other. Epson says it can produce new paper within three minutes, 14 new sheets a minute, and 6,720 sheets within an eight-hour day.
Under the hood, the PaperLab performs a three-step process. First, it breaks paper down into “long, thin cottony, fibers.” Then, it rebinds the fibers into a goopy substance using a mix of chemical agents. Then, finally, under high pressure, it fixes the paper back into a writing medium.
The invention is due to go on sale in Japan in 2016, and Epson is yet to set a price. Alastair Bourne, an Epson spokesperson in Japan, says it will be at a level allowing customers to “appreciate the financial benefits of owning PaperLab.”
“We are looking at the overall cost of confidential document recycling rather than just the cost of paper,” he says. “Many companies spend a lot on processing confidential documents–transportation, recycling and security. The PaperLab will mean they can achieve all this in their backyard.”
In practice, that means the nine-by-four-feet machine will probably appeal most to banks, insurance companies, and government offices to begin with, as these groups all produce a lot of confidential material. But, in time, you could imagine other environmentally-aware organizations coming on-board as well. Of course, though, doing away with paper–as in the “paperless office”–would be that much better for the environment.