It always seems that the printer runs out of paper at the least opportune moment. Just when you need to print a boarding pass, or a presentation you’re giving in five minutes, there’s not a sheet of paper to be found anywhere. But Epson wants to change that with a new machine that can turn trash cans full of used paper back into new sheets.
The machine, which Epson is calling the Paper Lab, is a massive device that companies can install in their offices to take shredded paper and turn it into sheets of paper. The machine tears the paper down to its fibrous elements, and then, using binding agents, the machine presses the fibers back into sheets of paper. According to Epson, the Paper Lab can produce over 6,700 A4 sheets of paper in an eight-hour workday.
While paper consumption has halved since the 1980s, the average American uses the equivalent of nearly six, 40-foot trees’ worth of paper each year, according to the Economist.
Epson’s process would help cut down on a lot of the waste inherent in the office paper supply chain. Instead of buying new reams of paper every time you run out, having to truck used paper to a recycling facility and truck new paper to stores and warehouses, business could reduce their carbon footprint a bit by keeping the process in the building. Epson said in a release that it believes this to be the first paper recycling system that doesn’t need water. Paper is usually made by mixing water with a pulp of recycled paper or wood that is then dried and pressed out into sheets. A ream of office paper tends to contain 500 sheets, and according to The Atlantic, it takes 3 gallons of water to make to make a single sheet. That’s a lot of water just to print out your boarding pass, especially for drought-ridden areas.
The company wasn’t immediately available to explain whether the recycled paper can be reused indefinitely, but if it can, paper companies might be in for a bit of a shock.
Epson said that the Paper Lab will go on sale in 2016, but hasn’t indicated how much it will cost. Given that the machine is the first of its kind and aimed at businesses, it’s unlikely to be cheap, so here’s another way to save paper in the meantime: Just don’t print out every email or PDF you’re sent. Computer screens are pretty easy to read on these days.