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Epson Rolls Out Printer That Also Recycles Printed Paper

Words by Leon Kaye

Printing boarding passes is sooooo 2005. Seriously, does anyone still print? My handy HP all-in-one printer collects more dust than print jobs. While it is true that most paper comes from managed forests, most of us just do not really have the need to print — a trend the paper industry, including the Paper and Packaging Board, whines about endlessly.

But sometimes we do need to print — for example, editing is easier for me to do on paper than staring at that laptop screen. And as an office tactic, distributing handouts at a meeting is a way to keep those rude colleagues’ eyes on the whiteboard and hands off their smartphones.

So, what if the office had printers that recycled shredded paper into new 8x10 or A4 sheets, creating a closed-loop recycling system within the office?

Epson, one of the world’s most popular printer manufacturers, is doing just that.

The venerable hardware manufacturer has developed what it describes as the “world’s first compact office papermaking system capable of producing new paper from securely shredded waste paper.” Christened the PaperLab, this new contraption, if successful, will replace the water cooler or Nespresso machine as the cool office place to hang out. The machines will start production in Japan next year.

Among the PaperLab’s selling points is the reduction in energy consumption and confidentiality. Yes, recycling is about as low-hanging fruit as sustainability gets, but all that paper still has to be hauled from location to location as it evolves from waste to raw material to paper once again. Plus, while one would hope those confidential documents are shredded, you never know what can happen once those revealing and, in some cases, salacious, papers leave the office. PaperLab starts reprocessing those shredded documents immediately, so we have no scenarios like what occurred in the Oscar-winning "Argo," or, in the "The Office."

The technology, as articulated by Epson, is relatively simple. Waste paper is broken down into fibers without water, using a proprietary process Epson calls 'dry fiber technology.' Those fibers are then bound together so that they are strong enough, and the user has the option to add tint, or, heaven forbid, fragrance -- or in the interest of security and public safety, flame retardants. New sheets are then formed in whatever thickness the office manager desires, and viola! The printing process can resume again.

No word on how many times the process can be repeated, but at a time when “innovation” has become so overused that it can cure insomnia, this is, quite frankly, true innovation. Plus, this PaperLab will be an awesome recruiting bait. There was a time, as many of us dot-com refugees remember, when Foozball and espresso machines were key tools to lure talent to companies. But these days, more of us want to work for a company that is socially and environmentally responsible. And quite frankly, Epson’s invention is a sustainability gem that just about any of us can relate to — provided, of course, it’s scalable and affordable.

Image credit: Epson

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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