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White Goat or White Elephant?

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If you haven't heard about it yet, the Oriental Co., of Japan, has created a paper shredder that converts used office paper into rolls of toilet tissue. Named "White Goat," the machine is said to weigh approximately 63,000 pounds and costs about $100,000. All it takes is electricity, water and 40 sheets of paper, and in 30 minutes a roll of toilet paper pops out. Please excuse the pun.

How exactly does this make a difference in our climate, our carbon footprint, or our ability to recycle efficiently? First, moving 63,000 pounds of anything takes an awful lot of energy. Then there is the question of how much electricity is used in the conversion process and the amount of water needed. And let's not forget the idea of simple comfort -- always a factor in selecting such a personal item as toilet paper.

There are probably justifiable reasons for a large corporation that produces a lot of waste paper to purchase a White Goat. Aside from being socially responsible, it may be a great way to increase worker productivity by virtue of the fact that if the toilet paper is really uncomfortable, employees won't leave their desks.

In all seriousness, whether this is a well-meaning product or not, there are already many ways to recycle paper that have a larger impact on our planet. In the move toward sustainability, some ideas just ought to be flushed.

Jonathan A. Schein is president & CEO of ScheinMedia and publisher of MetroGreenBusiness.com

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