Coming soon: Paper computers. No, really.

Coming soon: Paper computers. No, really.

A new material innovation could bring paper back to the office. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/13815526@N02/5630896990/">Pierre Lacourt (Flickr)</a>
A new material innovation could bring paper back to the office. Photo: Pierre Lacourt (Flickr)

Need a new computer; will that be paper or plastic?

Paper PP Alloy is a new material that might bring paper back to the office. The alloy, a combination of recyclable paper and polypropylene, could replace the traditional plastic shelling on computers.

Not only is the new material environmentally friendlier, but it’s also strong, sturdy and inexpensive to manufacture. PEGA Design & Engineering introduced the first paper-encased laptop body last year, garnering attention after snagging the iF Material Award for their innovation.

Polypropylene, or PP, is a thermoplastic that is widely recycled. PEGA states that PP is easily retrieved from its paper counterpart, making recycling easier. If it does find its way to a garbage pile, the Paper PP Alloy naturally degrades when exposed to heat and UV rays.

This is good news for landfills. Our love affair with electronic devices churns out tech waste, little of which is actually recycled. In 2008, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that 1.9 million tons of discarded e-waste ended up in a landfill. Many U.S. states have restricted or banned electronics disposal. What doesn’t land in U.S. landfills heads overseas, creating larger health and environmental problems. Jim Puckett, of the Basel Action Network, recently told NPR that even 80% of recycled electronics ends up abroad. Creating products that have inherently less hazardous waste is the first step in a fix.

If mass-marketed, this cheaper and more environmentally-friendly laptop model could mean greater access to computing for consumers in emerging markets or struggling schools. I can only imagine the vast market segment of sustainably-minded students clamoring to use this paper-wrapped PC; think of it as the new evolution of homemade textbook covers made out of brown paper bags.

Now, who’s going to create the world’s first recyclable motherboard?

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