Azara Blog: Plastic reusable paper allegedly good for the environment

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Date published: 2006/11/23

The BBC says:

Toshiba has developed a printer that uses plastic "paper" that can be re-used hundreds of times.

The electronics firm said the printer could help companies reduce carbon emissions as it helped to cut the amount of paper they consume.

Toshiba said the machine was designed for businesses and could find a home in many niche applications where permanent copies of documents were not needed.

Industry experts said firms might find it hard to adjust to re-useable paper.
Mike Keane, a spokesman for Toshiba TEC Europe, said under normal working conditions a sheet of the plastic paper can be used 500 times.
Comparisons carried out by Toshiba suggest that companies could reduce their carbon emissions in two ways by adopting the printer, said Mr Keane.

Firstly, he said, the production process for the B-SX8R generates about 1.5kg of CO2 emissions. By comparison the production process for laser printers, which require either ink or toner, generates up to 6.5kg of carbon emissions.

Secondly, he said, the fact that it helps firms to use less paper and reduces the amount they have to recycle would also help reduce the emissions for which a firm was responsible.
But Jeff Cooper, chair of the International Solid Waste Association's Scientific and Technical Committee, said adapting to using the printer could be a problem.

"The main problem is likely to be the human behavioural issues and training ourselves to re-use quickly rather than hoard," said Mr Cooper.

He also questioned Toshiba's analysis of the lifecycle costs of using paper compared to the B-SX8R as it did not take enough account of the costs involved in storing the plastic paper for a long time.

Using plastic paper for documents would involve "substituting an eminently renewable resource for a predominantly non-renewable resource," he said.

The analysis by Cooper hits the nail on the head. And in addition, the claim of the number of reuses and the amount of CO2 allegedly saved are almost certainly better than what would be achieved in reality. The story is indicative of how companies are now trying to sell technology for allegedly being green rather than for allegedly solving some business requirement.

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