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Britain’s trillion-page mountain stacks up

David Smith, Observer
Dreams of the paperless office dashed as more sheets head for the bin
The latest threat to the planet is not plastic bags or tin cans – it’s the annual waste mountain of a trillion sheets of paper churned out by office printers only to be binned within hours, a study has found.

Predictions of the paperless office – first made by Business Week magazine in a 1975 article on the ‘Office of the Future’ – have proved greatly exaggerated. Although an estimated 9 trillion pages a year are confined to computer screens, the number of printed pages stands at between 2.5 and 2.8 trillion worldwide and is predicted to grow over the next 10 years.
(14 October 2007)

Plastics recycling industry needs more feedstock

Alexander H. Tullo, Chemical & Engineering News
…Individual consumers are at the front end of a long recycling supply chain in which each link has its own reasons for wanting efforts like Hurd’s to succeed. Municipalities hope to get value for trash that otherwise would end up in landfills. Recycling companies stand to make money by cleaning and sorting these postconsumer plastics and turning them into new products. And even beverage makers, stung by recent scrutiny of the large amounts of waste plastic generated by soda and water bottles, stand to benefit from a greener reputation with consumers.

Yet everybody involved in recycling agrees that not enough plastics are being recycled today to ensure the industry’s success.
(15 October 2007)

Why your electric bill is so high

Warren Swil, Christian Science Monitor
Don’t be fooled. Appliances on ‘sleep’ mode still suck power.

Have you recently awoken in the dead of night to find a greenish blue haze swirling around your home, even though you turned off all the lights before going to bed?

Most likely it is the rapidly increasing plethora of tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs) featured on modern electronic appliances, many of which indicate that a machine is in “standby” mode. In fact, it’s probably been years since you really turned “off” your desktop computer or your television.

Most modern electronics come equipped with either standby or “sleep” functions to avoid time-consuming waits when machines start up. We’ve all spent dozens of hours cumulatively waiting after we push the start button as our computers read and load the programming code necessary to get ready. In the era of vacuum tubes, it took televisions several minutes before the picture became visible.

In standby, a machine is not really turned off. It goes into a state of reduced activity that requires only minimal power consumption. The downside is that even at vastly reduced power levels, millions of machines running all day, every day, adds up to huge amounts of wasted energy. With oil prices at record highs and the climate under threat from excessive consumption of fossil fuels, this is neither smart nor desirable.

It’s not the tiny lights themselves that are at fault – they’re a marvelous, energy-saving invention. Rather, it’s what they indicate: a seemingly unstoppable proliferation of devices that siphon power even while not in use.
(16 October 2007)