“Greening” laptops by making them out of paper. Some people get it!

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 03/12/2012

March 12, 2012

Amidst the numerous anti-paper and print messages like “Go paperless – save a tree” from companies encouraging us to choose the digital options (ex: e-billing), it is refreshing to see that some organizations understand the unique environmental features of paper.  They understand the fact that paper comes from a renewable resource that can be sustainably managed, and they get the fact that it is highly recyclable and recycled unlike many other materials we use today to manufacture the hundreds of millions of electronic gadgets we use (i.e. metals, plastics, fossil fuels, etc…).   In other words, paper has unique features that categorize it as a long-term sustainable material, as long as it is produced and used responsibly (as all products should).

It pleases me even more when the people that “get it” are servicing the electronics industry itself!  Yes, they are starting to make laptops out of paper, and marketing them as “green”.

A Chinese design company called PEGA D&E has created a new product called Paper PP Alloy to replace the plastic shelling used in laptop computers – the part that is often made of non-recyclable ABS plastic.  Paper PP Alloy is made by combining paper and polypropylene. Compared to plastic, the materials needed to make it are easy to retrieve and they can be molded using injection molding method.  In other words, there is no need to change the laptop manufacturing process. They claim it is strong, sturdy, environmentally friendly and inexpensive to make.  As quoted on their website: “The material for the future: Recyclable, Reusable.”

Another company called Yanko Design is marketing and selling a laptop outer casing made of recyclable paper and pulp designed by Je Sung Park.  As noted in an article bygizmag: “Generally, a laptop is upgraded every two years, resulting in an abundance of disposed computers, or ‘e-waste’. E-waste is a significant problem worldwide – in 2007, only 18% of the estimated 2.25 million tons of TVs, cell phones and computer products disposed of in the U.S. was recycled. The rest ended up as landfill. Je Sung Park’s concept design makes the upgrade process both inexpensive and guilt-free. Because the casing is made from pulp and reprocessed materials, it could easily be broken down when disposed of. The design features layers of the paper materials allowing the user the ability to replace any damaged portions.”

I should also mention the growing wood-plastic composite market, where wood fiber is being blended with plastics to make the final product more recyclable and more renewable.  These materials are considered by some to be a more sustainable alternative to conventional plastics.  Some companies, such as UPM-Kymmene, are also marketing the lower carbon footprint advantage of these composite products.

So it seems that the environmental features of wood fiber, pulp and paper are gradually being recognized as an effective method to make products more renewable, more recyclable and with a lower carbon footprint.  Perhaps even more so if these materials are sourced responsibly and come from well managed North American forests.

Phil Riebel

Two Sides U.S., Inc.