Rewritable paper – key for the greener office of the future

There has been no shortage of documentation about the benefits of recycling. Aluminium, plastics and all manner of other materials can be used and then refashioned into something useful and new. Paper has long been a recyclable resource, but its production can be devastating to the environment – deforestation and toxic chemical pollution to air, water and land, to name but two of the ill effects it has on our Earth.

Rewrite, not fade away

Surveys claim that some 90 per cent of information on any given business today is kept on paper – despite these sheets being disposed of after a single use. However, chemists at the University of California have developed an innovative new rewritable paper that could spark an end to to such wastage. It could also mean it's easier to – as save money on expensive and environmentally-harmful ink cartridges.

The newly developed paper, which, in essence, takes the form of transparent film made from sustainable glass and plastics, is written on using 'redox dyes' that were chosen for their colour-changing properties. The paper can be written on and erased more than 20 times without loss of clarity or resolution. Letters, patterns and shapes can be printed time and again and be kept for a considerable time. Erasing the text only requires heating the sheet.

"This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable," said Yadong Yin, of the University of California, the lab which led the research. "It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation."

Paper chain

As the 'paper' is not yet 'paper' in the truest sense if the word, being more of a thin sheet of transparent film, Mr. Yin and his team said that the next goal is indeed to create something more akin to the pulp we are used to. 

But wouldn't heating conventional paper in order to delete old text pose something of a problem? Not according to Mr. Yin.

"Even for this kind of paper, heating to 115 centigrade poses no problem," Yin said. "In conventional laser printers, paper is already heated to 200 centigrade in order to get toner particles to bond to the paper surface."

When rewritable paper becomes the norm, you could become the most eco friendly worker in your office, if you aren't already. Just imagine cycling to work, sustainable paper tucked into your Onya bag. Settle down into your chair and pour your first mug of warm tea from your stainless steel drink bottle. Now that's an office we'd all like to work at.