Due to the “shark-bite” pain of the consequences of producing and recycling paper – massive deforestation, landfills (in the form of irrecoverable paper waste), raft energy units consumed in the processes of paper, and the consequent unignorable emission of environmental pollutants like carbon dioxide – a year ago my university friends and I teamed up. This pain was not only persisting in Pakistan – our home country – but all around the globe.
After tiring research, we were surprised to know: one of the world’s leading factors of pollution is paper waste; 50% of the total waste from every business is in the form of papers; 12% ofindustrial sector’s energy is used to produce/recycle paper; 42% of wood harvest is used to produce paper; to produce 1 ton of paper 682.5 gallons of Oil, 26500 litres of water and 17 trees are required. Considering the undeniable effect of detrimental emissions and deforestation on global warming, we figured, Pakistan was in the most affected region on the planet. Climatic aggravation was expected. And so, it happened, along with fatal back-to-back heatwaves, especially in Pakistan and India. Death toll was in thousands. Imagine people dying due to heatstroke, hospitals overflowing with cases and not having enough facilities to facilitate everyone. Endless fatalities were encountered in consecutive years.
Hence, the urgency of the matter led my team into further research, but this time, the research was on the solution instead of the problem. Never-ending efforts ended us upon the idea and prototype of a printer-like machine we named Deprinter.
Started off with an idea to re-whiten a laser printed “monochrome” paper using laser “ablation” (evaporation) technology published by the researchers at the University of Cambridge, soon we designed a much cheaper prototype in comparison to what their research paper estimated. The Deprinter was coined to be the new recycling. Now, imagine a device, just like a printer, which takes laser printed paper and gives back a whitened paper – ready for reuse.
Suppose if a company uses 5,000(five thousand) papers per month and throws away the useless 2,500(two thousand five hundred) printed papers every month. Every next month it will have to purchase 5,000 new papers. Imagine, if this company Deprints the useless 2,500 printed papers, will it still need 5,000 new papers the next month? No. It will need only 2,500 new papers and reuse the old and Deprinted 2,500 papers. No need to throw 2,500 papers away for the recycling industry to process them and consume more energy units(causing environmental emissions), man-power, wood harvest(causing deforestation) etc. along the process.
The only similarity we found between recycling and Deprinting paper was the paper could be treated through either process for a limited number of times only (for example, a medium quality paper could be recycled thrice after which it’s microscopic fibers damage). But the resources Deprinter saves and the environmental friendliness it offers are much better than those of recycling.
Deprinter bagged us the first position at two different student innovation competitions. Next, we participated in Global Cleantech Innovation Program(GCIP) by United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO) where we worked collaboratively with other teams, mentors, and organizations to realize our prototype and even start a business. We didn’t win the program and were the proud finalists who were held back by their constraints but we learnt exponentially about innovation, business and entrepreneurship through the 6-month long program. Spending half a year among competitors of the program, mentors and organizations who offered collaboration was all in all an unforgettable experience. Besides sharing our expertise and impacting others at a global platform, we had a common goal – saving the Earth – and whoever progressed benefitted the Earth.
The two major impediments our way were lack of funds and accessible laser research facilities. Ever since GCIP, our progress plateaued. We had an ambition that slowly started to fade away amidst our busy schedule, jobs, and other commitments. Every team member saw the dead-end – the closed door. But I saw the open door right next to it in the dim light. The door to realize our dream of Deprinter (perhaps) was right next to the closed door. That open door was labelled “InnoEnergy Master Program”. I know deeply, I’m here for a reason and for the realization of my sustainable dream that could benefit the world. As my team awaits my valuable return, the dream of Deprinter may seem blurred while I find the perfect lens.
By Usama Siddiqui
Published on 30 August 2018