Imagine a future where our planet is once again teeming with greenery, and where deforestation and chemical pollution caused by paper mills is a thing of the past. This is the vision of environmental enthusiasts, who are advocating alternate solutions to the large number of paper products being used today.
The industrialized paper making process poses a number of detrimental effects to the environment. Right from the time the raw materials are acquired, the production process of paper affects our planet tremendously, right up to the last stage of the process - waste disposal. Currently, over 90% of paper pulp is created from wood, ensuring that the production of paper accounts for about 35% of the deforestation we see today. Apart from reducing forest cover, paper mills are also responsible for high energy consumption and water and air pollution.
In an attempt to counter these problems, chemists have recently developed a new type of paper. This ‘paper’ is a thin plastic film coated with non-toxic redox dyes. Text can be printed on this paper when it is exposed to ultra-violet light. But what makes this new paper most economical is the ability users have of erasing previously printed text by simply heating it to a temperature of around 115 degree Celsius. These factors make this material completely recyclable, allowing for repeated use.
Additionally, this paper comes with a low cost of production, low energy consumption and low toxicity. And because it allows for easy erasing, ink cartridges in printers are not wasted and are used judiciously. All of these together, address many of the environmental problems caused by the production of traditional paper.
For instance, compare this. This new plastic film material need to be heated to 115 degrees to erase printed text and doesn’t require any ink for printing. On the other hand, traditional paper is heated to 200 degrees in a laser printer to get toner particles to bond to the paper. It is evident that the new material is a far more eco-friendly and a viable option.
Recyclable paper of this sort, when used to print newspapers and magazines, can reduce the harmful environmental effects of paper production drastically. Even normal recycled paper production causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution. If the figures are so effective with recycled paper itself, the production of rewritable paper using glass or plastic will be even more impactful.
Rewritable material that can have around 100 cycles of printing and erasing are being developed to encourage the world to move on from the traditional paper-based existence. More research is being dedicated to creating alternate solutions for paper to turn around the effects of deforestation and chemical pollution, for a greener, cleaner future.
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