Sunday, July 20, 2008

Steal this idea: Scratch paper printer

Somewhat counterintuitively, the Computer Science department at Brown produces a ton of paper (literally a ton if you choose the Right time scale...). A good portion of our printouts only use one side of the paper (though people are generally good about printing things duplex, 2-up, etc.). Much of this scratch paper is recycled immediately while some is put in a scratch paper pile. After trying to reduce our printouts, what we can do to lower our paper usage? Last year, I made a "notebook" out of scratch paper. a folder, and some clips which worked out very nicely for a course. While I like this method and would like to see it done on a large scale, it seems unlikely to reuse much of our scratch paper supply.

One idea that I'd like to investigate is a "scratch paper printer." This would be a printer stocked entirely with scratch paper. There are couple potential issues. The main issue is that I've been told that printers jam more frequently on scratch paper[1]. I want to find out if this is true for all or just some printers. Ideally, we can find a (potentially slower) printer which doesn't jam as much on scratch paper. A lesser issue is keeping the printer stocked since scratch paper doesn't come as easily as store-brought reams, but since this can be done on demand by users, I'm less concerned. Please contact me if you have any comments on this proposal, since I'll put pitching it to the department in the coming future.

[1] It might be interesting to try to design a printer which is more robust to paper jams (steal this idea, please) but beyond what I'm looking for at this point.


Cowperthwait said...

A former employer produced a lot of printed rough drafts & comps; there, we implemented something similar to what you propose.

One tray of each printer in our pool was loaded with scratch paper, and our print server / client drivers were set to use this tray by default. This made printing onto virgin paper an opt-in, vs. opt-out, decision.


* Printers were set to roll over to the virgin paper tray when the scratch paper tray ran empty, so there was little inconvenience when we ran out of scratch paper (or our interns forgot to refill the trays).

* Maybe 15% of the time, users needing to print final drafts would forget to specify the virgin tray, and their jobs would emerge on scratch paper. But: no harm, no foul — they were only wasting paper that was already written off as wasted, anyway.

* Use of this system dovetailed with more widespread use of a paper shredder, so that sensitive docs (e.g., drafts of HR letters, or NDA-protected client correspondence) didn't accidentally end up back in the pool.

* We didn't have jam trouble; we did, however, run into trouble when reusing documents that had been printed with color toner or marked up with highlighters. This led to the premature retirement of a handful of fusers, but we curtailed the problem with some signage ("don't put scratch paper here if...") and intern-harangue'age.

Anonymous said...

Before we had the giant whiteboards downstairs I went through tons of the scratch paper scratching.

I wonder if they could just figure out how to print the coversheets on old coversheets, rotated appropriatedly.


Guillaume Marceau said...

Bravo. That would be awesome.

ideas :

- having dedicated high-resolution screen to review to paper you are
writing without using printout.
- having e-paper screens
- having more tablets