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Pencil Pusher

A sketch of what the pencil-making device might look like

HowStuffWorks.com

U.S. businesses use about 21 million tons (19 million metric tons) of paper every year -- 175 pounds of paper for each American, according to the Clean Air Council. This has led to office recycling programs, "please think before you print" e-mail signatures and printers that offer double-sided printing. Now a trio of Chinese inventors hopes to add another device to the cubicle environment: the P&P Office Waste Paper Processor, which turns paper destined for recycling into pencils. The machine, looking a bit like a three-hole punch crossed with an electric pencil sharpener, was a finalist in the 2010 Lite-On Awards, an international competition that seeks to stimulate and nurture innovation.

Here's how the pencil-making gadget works: You insert wastepaper into a feed slot. The machine draws the paper in, rolls and compresses it, and then inserts a piece of lead from a storage chamber located in the top of the device. A small amount of glue is added before -- voilà -- a pencil slides out from a hole on the side. It's not clear how many pieces of paper form a single pencil, but you figure the average office worker could generate a decent supply of pencils in a month.

And that seems to be the biggest drawback to the pencil-producing gadget. How many No. 2 pencils can an office really use, given that most workers take notes on their tablet PCs or laptops? And how much glue and lead core do you need to buy to keep up with the overflowing paper recycle bin? Too much, we would suspect, which is why you may never see this gadget in your office supplies catalog [source: Bonderud].

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