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Earth Technology

A Paper Alloy To Replace Plastic Cases 182

xwwt writes "In response to a paper by Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics, PEGA Design & Engineering has developed a new product that is intended to replace plastic shell material in computer equipment and electronics. The product contains a combination of paper and polypropylene (PP) which aids in recycling efforts and is intended to keep non-recyclable materials out of landfills. The PP should break down in sunlight and can be reclaimed. There is concern that polypropylene cannot be separated from the paper fiber and brings into question how the material will be recycled. As poster Paul Davis points out, it might have been better to use polylactic acid. Ultimately, it raises the question: is this truly a recyclable material?"
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A Paper Alloy To Replace Plastic Cases

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  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:12PM (#39040099)

    ... have a sunlight readable screen?

    The PP should break down in sunlight and can be reclaimed.

    Well, it did for a while.

    • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:45PM (#39040419)

      Will this laptop have a sunlight readable screen?

      The PP should break down in sunlight and can be reclaimed.

      Well, it did for a while.

      And it won't have any sunlight in the landfill so it won't degrade very well? I thought one problem with landfills is that things that should degrade do not due to a lack of sunlight, oxygen, etc. IIRC some researchers have dug around in landfills from the 40s and 50s and found well preserved newspapers and other theoretical degradables. On the other hand some landfills are producing enough methane to make capture economical. Is it a soil thing? Breathable/permeable vs something more impenetrable?

      • All modern landfills are created in a sealed pit. Clay and sheets of thick plastic are used to prevent contaminates from leaching into the water table. I would imagine that if you were to harvest methane, you would pump air down to the bottom of the landfill, let it perculate up, and the collect the methane at the surface.
        • by Appolonius of Perge ( 961983 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:01PM (#39040559)

          Methane is generated by anaerobic processes. You wouldn't pump air in to generate methane; you'd just collect it as it built up as bacteria turned solid and liquid waste into the gas.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You wouldn't pump air in to generate methane

            Yes, I would.

            Err - sorry. For a moment there, I thought this was one of those silly RIAA anti-piracy commercials.

            Well, whatever. Maybe I wouldn't pump air in to generate methane, but I'd still download a car, given the opportunity. :p

      • The "new" thinking and practice on landfills is not to hermetically seal the thing, but to keep it moist and bio-reactive. They basically put a big impermeable mat down, throw garbage and dirt on top, and then pour water on it. They suck methane out and run generators with it locally if they can, and they pump the nasty water out of the bottom and pour it right back on top. They keep doing this until the water that comes out the bottom isn't quite as nasty and the methane production tapers off. Then they ad

    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

      Everything is recyclable in a billion year time frame. Every dead species will arise again. How many times has Atlantis sank? How many secrets lost?

      Even if we sterilize the planet, life will most likely be found on it later. It's not an optimal solution but no one said this universe is fair just very persistent at trying.

  • cyber-punk []
    (disclaimer: not affiliated in any way with datamancer, just love the designs)
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:14PM (#39040109)
    Keep out of direct sunlight, product may disintegrate
  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:16PM (#39040125) Homepage Journal
    • fuck yeah. and aluminum. and steel. you know, some people might want to use their radio or mp3 player outdoors a lot.......
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Stop relying on recycling. Seriously. Hamilton, Ontario has a steel mill that has an arc furnace to recycle steel. They don't run it during the day since it has the power draw of all of Burlington(a near by town). People need to start think more about the other 2 Rs. Reduce and Reuse.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:16PM (#39040135)

    They will just protest even more claiming that those electronics are "made of dead trees".

    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      Is there an incident where Greenpeace has opposed a responsibly managed forest that wasn't recently cleared from old growth?
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )


        Forestry in large old growth forests is sometimes the most responsible thing. The boreal forest is massive, and it used to burn at (long) intervals. We've done our best to stop the burning for economic, safety and potentially misguided environmental reasons. Logging those forests responsibly and at long intervals can be good for the forest and better than intensely "farming" smaller areas.

        Cutting old growth forests isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's not as if forest

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:19PM (#39040155) Homepage

    Doesn't greenpeace like whine and cry over the amount of paper products we use? And let's not forget we have more forest here in north america, and we grow trees for pulping and lumbering just for that purpose anyway. But, considering the amount of anti-industrial, anti-progress, lets move society back in time crap that comes out of them anymore. People should just ignore them as the special interest group that they are.

    Besides, the only real reason why we use plastic is because it's durable, lightweight and cheap. If we had a metal that was durable and light and cheap we'd use that too.

    • The idea behind this is that is can be manufactured from recycled materials more effectively, it doesn't mention how recyclable the product is itself.

      Compared to plastic, the materials needed to make Paper PP Alloy are easy to retrieve.

      The mixture of different plastics causes the major issues for effective plastic recycling. []

    • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:00PM (#39040555)

      And let's not forget we have more forest here in north america

      More than what? North America has less than 9% of the original old growth forest it had before mankind landed here. And the land being used for lumber and pulping is being degraded, so that they have to move on to other forest areas over time. Heaven forbid someone point out the dangerous and destructive practices that are destroying our world at an alarming and increasing rate. Let's just call them a special interest group and keep plowing on.

      • The number of trees and the amount of forest has increased.

        The suburbs has been fairly effective in turning farmland into urban forests.

        Mind you, it does not answer the question about old growth forests, etc. but still....

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        If I remember right. 40% of north america was still in an moderate to heavy ice age period when "man landed here" so really the only increase you're going to see in forest is up. Then again, living in Canada and all that we've been doing this for nearly 100 years without too much of a problem. And again, the only places where forests are degrading is where we've stopped natural burn and clear cycles from happening from forest fires. Allowing invasive species to take hold like pine beetles.

      • North America has less than 9% of the original old growth forest it had before mankind landed here.

        I can't imagine that many of the forests from 14,000 years ago would resemble their old selves by now, man or no man.

        I don't know, so I'm being honest with this question: Does a forest still count as "old growth" if it is wiped out by a natural fire?

      • The ecology of the Americas before European settlement was heavily dependent upon human intervention.

        A good introductory text on the subject (albeit for a limited geographical area) is Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:23PM (#39040195)
    Apparently that breaks down in the presense of oxygen. You know, like anywhere in earths oceans and atmosphere...
    • PLA is reasonably stable under everyday conditions(as some would-be composters have discovered to their chagrin... it can be composted but your technique has to be up to the task) The real killer, for something like computer packaging, is the low glass transition temperature. You can get quite dramatic and swift deformation at under 100 degrees, and enough softening to creep under trivial mechanical stress lower still.

      Having a laptop case that will start deforming at temperatures quite plausibly reached
  • Made from 100% post-consumer waste, of course.

  • sounds like.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:24PM (#39040205)

    I'm not a chemist, but this sounds like one of those substances that'll degrade before it should, causing premature failure. plastic has gotten cheap and unreliable enough these days that I wonder if any increased recyclability is being offset by more products being thrown away due to premature breakage. perhaps it's anecdotal, but around the early 1990s, I noticed plastics getting lighter and more brittle, and larger products made with them had structural problems compared with their predecessors. examples coming to mind include kids toys, household appliances, automotive components, and personal electronics.

    • have you seen the chinese plastic cased space heaters that eventually melt and catch ablaze? this shit also would be a fire hazard.
    • It's all about matching the product to it's expected life cycle. Why over-engineer a product if it's expected to only last x number of (years, cycles, uses, etc) Anything more is a waste of raw materials.

      Older products had to be over-engineered because we didn't have computers and software sophisticated enough to run simulations to predict stresses within their structure. It was easier to just make it thick enough and leave it at that. Plus there's advances in chemistry and production processes. Injection m

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        or perhaps quality could be pushed as a means of limiting make the product once instead of 3 times per customer, and encourage a repair rather than replace culture.

      • Re:sounds like.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @12:35AM (#39041371)

        It's all about matching the product to it's expected life cycle. Why over-engineer a product if it's expected to only last x number of (years, cycles, uses, etc) Anything more is a waste of raw materials.

        Because when a man builds a machine, it is a sacred thing. It's what separates us from lower forms of life and is the physical manifestation of our God-given intellect. To build a shoddy machine that can't be relied upon to perform its stated function when you had the choice to build a good one is an abomination against nature.

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      . plastic has gotten cheap and unreliable

      It doesn't work that way. There are thousands of different kinds of plastic. Different plastics are being used in different applications. Nylon is nylon is nylon. It's a chemical compound. It doesn't change over time.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:28PM (#39040231) Journal
    Even if it is a good idea as a case material(which isn't entirely clear, that plastic isn't going to be any more fun to recycle because of the tree guts mixed in, and the tree guts aren't going to be any more biodegradeable for the plastic encasing them, and any pigments, release agents, flame retardants, and other miscellanious additives aren't going to be any friendlier than they were in the usual ABS or polycarbonate...), the billing on the website as "the solution to e-waste" seems deeply overblown.

    Case plastics aren't made of bunnies and happy thoughts, true, and mixed plastics are often not recycled(and if they are, issues like the difficulty of getting the color of the recycled material right out of an already-pigmented feedstock often consign the recycled material to low-value applications); but much of the really nasty stuff is happening on the circuit boards, and in their manufacture, not in the case. Particularly for a portable, where the case is vital to protecting the guts, and keeping the machine from creaking and generally falling to bits, the durability of the case is a major factor in how many years of use you get from the device. It seems like compromising on the case, to make it incrementally less unpleasant, is a bit of a false economy if it decreases the service life of the nastier(and more expensive) components inside.
    • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:32AM (#39041871)

      Agreed. Being in the recycling business I can give you some additional comments.

      Currently computer cases are made of ABS or PC/ABS (a blend of PC and ABS). Usually light grey or beige colour, occasionally black, and sometimes laden with flame retardants. Under the European RoHS this has to be a bromine-free FR for new products, but of course in the recycling you get lots of pre-RoHS materials as well. The main problem here is that the recycled material has limited applications, it can not be used for products to be sold within Europe for example.

      Computer cases are being recycled big time, this is quite valuable material in the recycling world. The computer recyclers will collect and bale those cases for sale to plastic recyclers, China is a major market for this material. Here the material is sorted by type, washed, and repelletised for use in new products.

      Regarding colouring: you can not remove pigments from a plastic, if it's in, it's in forever. Same accounts for other additives and fillers. You can only dye the plastic to a darker colour; in practice most coloured plastic is dyed black when it's reprocessed. This as the end user will always want a very specific colour (there are thousands of shades of red, for example), all colours can be dyed to black, and black is one of the most commonly used colours.

      The PCBs is another matter: they contain many precious metals such as gold, and are also recycled. Working ICs are often reused (no idea what for but I know they're doing it), the precious metals are recovered. The latter in particular is a very nasty process, as it requires all kinds of poisonous chemicals. And it's often causing a lot of pollution, because these chemicals are often allowed to leak in the soil.

      Back to the proposed material. It may or may not be recycled, I don't know. New technologies may have to be developed. It sounds a bit similar to the more common wood-plastic-composite, which is a blend of wood flour with plastics such as HDPE, PP or PVC. This is often used as replacement for wood.

      PP does degrade in sunlight: I live in a subtropical area, near the tropic, so especially in summer we have very strong sunlight. Leave a PP product out in the sun and in a year it's become brittle and loses all strength. But it must be exposed to sunlight (specifically the UV part of course), as otherwise nothing happens. So any material covered by other material is well protected. And the flip side is also that the PP is really degraded, and has become useless. No recycling can regain any strength in the material, it's lost and has become total waste. Degenerating until something that can not be seen anymore takes a lot longer, and again requires exposure to direct sunlight.

  • So products are going to get even cheaper and less reliable than they already are. Why the hell would anyone buy a computer case that is designed to fail?

    • Re:Wonderful (Score:4, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:45PM (#39040409) Homepage

      > ...designed to fail?

      That was "planned obsiolescence"[1]. It was evil. This is "biodegradeability". It is "Green". You are supposed to want your things to rot and fall apart. Creates jobs, you see. Buying stuff that is durable and using it until it wears out is what old people do. After all, you have to throw your 'pod away and buy the new model ever six months anyway, right?

      [1] Not really, but that's what the popular press redfined it as.

      • by J'raxis ( 248192 )

        Yup. And what it is is yet another idea sold to us using guilt and shame. Our inventions are ruining the environment, poisoning the earth, bringing us ever closer to disaster---and we're horrible, horrible people for it, they say. In order to feel good about ourselves and atone for our sins we need to be ashamed of ourselves and what we create, they say. And by sacrificing our worldly creations and making our lives more difficult we can make things better, they say. And who are "they"? Businessmen peddling

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:39PM (#39040351) Journal

    A long time ago, during a more optimistic time when we dreamt of jet packs and lunar colonies (no,not by sacrifing the rest of the economy Newt Gingrich style) recycling wasn't going to be a problem.

    Just drop waste into a plasma torch; everything would be reduced to "indivisible" atoms (yes I know that's what the word atom means).

    I guess that particular dream vanished with the electric power from nuclear reactors that would be "too cheap to meter".

    Anyway, not complaining too much. The past didn't see our future filled with fun handheld gadgets and the Internet. And who knows, maybe Siri will have a baby with Watson. (We should name him HAL). We also don't have nukes in low earth orbit ready to finish off the human race in a few minutes. Still, even though renewables will probably keep us warm in the winter and cool in the hotter summers, it's not clear that we'll have really high intensity power sources to squander, I mean use, anytime soon. I mean nuclear fusion is 20 years away and power from satellites even further.

    Let's just hope it doesn't get as bad as in "The Windup Girl".

    • by Raptoer ( 984438 )

      afaik the current limitations with plasma torch garbage disposal is not the power, but the plasma degrades the materials making up the furnace too quickly. If the input is general waste then the process produces as much energy as it takes. It needs energy to start or if the input doesn't have enough hydrocarbons.

    • >We also don't have nukes in low earth orbit ready to finish off the human race in a few minutes Why keep them in low earth orbit when you can put them there in a matter of minutes, on their way to doomsday somewhere?
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:46PM (#39040425) Journal
    Sometimes, computers can get pretty warm.... and paper doesn't exactly have a very high point of combustion. How flammable is this stuff?
    • by bgibby9 ( 614547 )

      Gives a whole new meaning to "crotch burn" doesn't it ;)

    • IIRC, paper's ignition point is 451 degrees Farenheight (about 233 degrees C). If things get that hot in your computer, you have bigger things to worry about than the case catching fire. Then again, a bit of water cooling and you have a cofffe maker.

  • by MooseTick ( 895855 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:04PM (#39040579) Homepage

    make it out of chocolate and everyone will want it and have to buy new ones regularly.

  • The green movement is so full of cow dung.

    A minuscule percentage of the "break down in sunlight" bags actually do as they mostly get buried. In fact once buried deep enough nothing breaks down as no bacteria survive. They dug up a chicken bone meat and all after 50 years from a landfill.

    This goes right next to these heavy green bags that replace the cheap disposable bags. The reality is that disposable bags get used again at least to hold rubbish. The reusable often do not and even they are 28 bags worth o
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      In 2009, Walmart Stores proposed turning three California stores in to reusable bag only stores.[10] Concurrently, Walmart was prepared to introduce a $0.15 reusable bag. On 23 October 2009 Walmart abandoned plans to remove carrier bags but they continued to introduce the new lower cost bags. In contrast to previous bags sold at $0.99 and $0.50 these lower cost bags may reduce price incentive to reuse these heavy bags.

      Well there's your problem. Around here the reusable bags cost several dollars and they de

  • by NemoinSpace ( 1118137 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:38PM (#39040789) Journal
    Only if people stop burying it in landfills.
    OTOH Most of what we know about ancient people is by digging through their trash.
  • Any guesses how well this does in a standard UL fire resistance test? My guess is it's not going to be the kind of case you want when your Li-ion cells do the Sony thing.

    Does it turn mushy when you pour water on it?

    It'll probably do fine if it's only a low percentage of paper (IE, it's just greenwashing), but if it's actually a substantial amount I would expect it to light off like a fire log.

    • I'm sure you could get it to pass a fire resistance test if you were willing to add enough flame retardants.

      A pity that the most promising candidates are a collection of somewhat sinister organohalogens and organophosphates, research on which generally hasn't led to smiles among the world's toxicologists...
  • I don't think alloy is the appropriate term for this material.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @12:00AM (#39041205)
    So when I was repairing my surf ski with rolled up newspaper and polyester resin some years ago I was really making a "paper alloy"?
    Deliberate fracture of language to make something sound like something else is to sign of a scam artist (or the marketing people for the composite in the article).
  • What about things we actually intend to NOT throw away or get rid of as soon as the next fad hits? It's already hard to enough to combat plastic yellowing due from UV exposure because of the bromine flame retardants.... now we have to keep it from disintegrating too? DO NOT WANT. At least with the yellowing issue, you can use 40vol cream peroxide gel and UV to reverse the process.

    Why does everyone insist "green" means disposable? That mentality creates more waste as truly "green" electronics are a pipe

  • Metal has been recycled for hundreds of years, and is a fine material for PC and laptop cases. Cast alloy Toughbooks and other rugged machines are some examples.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @01:28AM (#39041597)
    Some things just need to be uncomfortably close to the sun before it will degrade...
  • On Recycling I defer to the expertise of Penn and Teller []

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