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Switching Between New and Recycled Paper
By Thiravudh Khoman

I'm a great believer in using recycled paper (by recycled paper, I mean paper that has been used on only one side and blank on the other). I've been doing it for over 25 years now and everyone in the family participates.

9 pages out of 10, my printing is done on recycled paper. Occasionally, though, I need to print to new, virgin paper. There's an easy way to swap between recycled and white paper, so easy that I'm reluctant to state the obvious. But for the sake of those who haven't thought of it yet, here it is.

Assuming your printer can hold 30 sheets of paper (the number of sheets isn't important), take 14 sheets of white paper, put 2 sheets of coloured paper on top of this, and then add 14 sheets of recycled paper on top of that. What you have now is 2 sheets of coloured paper separating your white and recycled paper.

Whenever you need to print to the white paper, orient the batch of paper so that the white paper is fed into the printer. When you wish to print to the recycled paper, flip the sheets around so that the recycled paper is fed in. Depending on your printer, the recycled paper may have to be oriented either face-up or face-down relative to the coloured separator paper.

As you print, you'll get a visual cue when either type of paper runs out - a colour page will appear or you will advertantly print onto a coloured sheet. No problem, simply fill 'er up, put the coloured sheet back into the middle (it's alright if it's been printed on).

A few caveats. Obviously, this trick works best when the paper is fed into an open bin or tray, where the paper can be easily removed and eyeballed. It is not very effective for printers with closed trays, partly because you can't see the paper until after it's been printed, and partly because in my experience, recycled paper doesn't seat and/or feed well in closed trays.

Finally, some tips on using recycled paper:

  • Manually screen all of your recycled paper, page by page. Don't assume that any sight-unseen paper will be "good".
  • Remove all staples from the recycled paper. Staples can cause your printer to make some real ugly noises and result in horrible printer jams.
  • Don't use recycled paper that is too thin, too coarse, torn, folded, or crumpled. Use these for writing notes instead.
  • Don't use xeroxed paper that is very dark (e.g. xeroxes of photos). Xerox ink when reheated in a laser printer can mess things up.
  • Don't use recently acquired recycled paper. Put a medium-weight magazine on top of the pile to flatten the paper out overnight first.
  • Print two reduced pages on one sheet of paper. Many print utilities exist that allow you to do this. Some printers, in fact, have this capability built into their drivers (e.g. the Epson Stylus Color 850).

Copyright © 1998-2000, Thiravudh Khoman