A future for paper

Paper Future
Is there a future for paper? The disappearance of paper is (still) the subject of many discussions, for example in the print media industry. Publishers are being challenged to adapt to a digital future. At the same time, cardboard boxes have become the transport material for almost any shipment in the world, making paper one of the most accessible and widely distributed material resources across the world. From this point of view, paper can be said to rule the world. To find out whether paper is future-proof it is worth having a closer look at projects that have paper at their heart.

Paper Bicycles
How to get from A to B? Israeli engineer Izhar Gafni had a simple idea, to build a bicycle entirely made of cardboard. Engineers told him this was impossible. He tried it anyway, and after many sleepless nights, multiple mistakes and countless prototypes he surprised the world with a paper bicycle that has a production cost of around $9 to $12. It is worth browsing the internet to learn more about this mission (im)possible of a low-cost, 100% paper bicycle.

Paper Bottles
Most people try to keep paper dry but the creative minds at the US based Brand Image believe in a paper based water bottle. Their 360 paper water bottle idea is an attempt to address the problem of the 60 million plastic bottles that are thrown away daily in the United States (of which 86 % becomes garbage). This paper alternative is made from renewable, consumption-safe resources. It is fully recyclable as well as offering the possibility of differentiating between the colour of the bottles and even adding type directly onto the packaging with blind embossing.

Paper Computers
Recompute is a so called Low Impact Product (L.I.P.) designed to reduce environmental impact throughout its life span during manufacturing, ownership and disposal. The Recompute is made of die-cut cardboard profiles and uses less materials and parts during its manufacturing. Recomputes are to be usable for five years or more which is more than the average life span of the computers today (3-5 years). The traditional electronic waste issue of disposed computers is replaced by a take-back system with a simple (it is just cardboard after all) disassembly process that can be completed in minutes.

Paper Prototyping
Did you think paper prototyping was old fashioned? Mcor Technologies from Ireland claims to offer the lowest cost, most eco-friendly, full colour paper 3D printers. These printers are able to print photo-realistic 3D parts with the resolution you would expect from a high-quality 2D colour printer. The paper parts are surprisingly robust and the machine itself is easy to use and office friendly. No dust and no fumes, so it easily fits into any office or school environment. This rather new 3D printer is already considered to be one of the best rapid prototyping solutions on the market today.

Paper Recycling
Dutch designer Lieske Schreuder creates wonderful patterns by recycling paper with the help of snails. During her graduation project she discovered that snails have an appetite for paper and that their droppings take on the colour of the paper they eat. She started to study on what could be done with these droppings which resulted in two surprising colourful materials so called “Snail Poop Linoleum” and “Snail Poop Thread.” Since it takes seven snails about six days to create just one meter of thread, this a rather slow process. Nevertheless Lieske has already created several tiles and her first wall carpet – in full (poop) colour.

Paper Poetry
Silent Fish by Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters is a continuous study that started during the Wadden Sea project. At low tide the receding sea reveals animals and plants on the muddy surface along the coast. Trapped in the mud flats, fish that were once active and alive, turn into static objects. The project is not meant to present a dead animal but to represent an object carrying emotion and poetry. The patterns of a grey mullet, cod, tub gurnard and black sea bream were made and reproduced in lightweight newspaper to remain as nothing but shape.

A Paper Future!
The projects above demonstrate that the opportunities for paper in products, prototyping, recycling and even poetry are still far from exhausted. One of the best examples of the importance of paper is probably this book itself. This book is full of amazing, high-tech, sustainable and lightweight materials, are all presented on a rather common but very reliable material… paper. The fact that paper, in the shape of this book, has been used to get you and many other readers inspired with wonderful ideas is exactly what our future is made of. Ideas, delivered on paper, and sometimes made from paper. A paper future!