[GRRN] Decopiers

Bruce Nordman (bnordman@dante.lbl.gov)
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 16:07:23 -0500

Regarding the query on the "Decopier" from ImageX Technologies,
that "erases" paper for subsequent reuse.

As this is effectively source reduction, not recycling, of the
paper, I've followed such products for several years, and included
information on my web site ("Cutting Paper") on that topic.
The bottom line is that the devices would appear to have potential
application in niche markets/uses, there are reasons to believe
that they aren't likely to be a good choice for the average office
for a variety of reasons. I've excerpted the discussion of these
from the web site below.
I have a press release from Ricoh and have reviewed the ImageX web
pages. If anyone has additional information, or any direct experience
with the device, please let me know. Thanks.

[ the following text from:
though it is better to go to the "Cutting Paper" home page:
then click on 'Ideas' then 'Future'. ]

Erasing Paper

Many people have noticed that most of the copy paper in recycling bins
is in good condition apart from the print or copy on it. If one could
only 'erase' the toner of the page, it could be reused as (nearly) new.
At least two companies have seriously explored this option.

In 1993, the Ricoh company issued a press release announcing the "Paper
Recycling System", a technology for removing toner from copy paper.
However, within a few years they decided not to turn the
technology into a product.

In 1997, ImageX Technologies announced that they had developed a
technology call ed "decopying". The Decopier removes the toner from
laser printers and copiers.

There are significant challenges to the use of such products. Marks
from pens and pencils may remain on the paper. Staples and tears may
make the paper more likely to jam. Perhaps the biggest problem is
the cost of collecting the paper in good form, then feeding it through
the 'erasing' machine, and possibly inspecting it for damage or marks.
While the Decopier makers claim that the cost of the machine can be
recovered after processing slightly less than 2 tons of paper (750
reams), it isn't clear how labor costs are accounted for. There is
also the issue of buying the removal chemicals and disposing of the
waste toner.

Perhaps the best use is to remove the information from sensitive
documents. The decopier makers note this. Shredding, the usual
option, can be expensive and requires its own machines or an outside
contractor. Another possible use is for expensive paper, such as
paper used for high quality color rendition with inkjet printers.
The savings would be much higher, but it would probably require a
different technology than has been developed to date.

Bruce Nordman
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
510-486-7089; fax: 510-486-4673