Every day in the U.S., 130,000 computers are discarded. About 85 percent of discarded computer components were left in landfills or incinerated in 2007, according to the EPA. Electronic devices, which make up 2 percent of the world’s solid waste stream and potentially emit more than 1,000 toxic substances, are the fastest growing source of waste in the world. Moore’s Law makes technology obsolete at an astounding rate – the average life of a computer is now just over 2 years. A challenge to manufacturers and designers is how to make components that won’t add to the waste stream. One possible – and stylish – solution to the difficulties in recycling computers is presented by designer Je Sung Park’s paper laptop.

The concept is an ultra-thin laptop with cheap, disposable layers that can be easily upgraded. Made of recycled pulp, it would obviously be easier to dispose of more efficiently.

Park’s concept is inspired by the growth in the popularity of disposable cameras and phones.

“Future technology users will need all of the digital products in a disposable form,” Park said.

It would take a pretty significant shift in thinking to get consumers to accept computing on a paper-based device. Shifts in materials are sometimes more difficult than shifts in use: look at the amount of people who oppose e-readers simply because they're not paper.

If consumers can accept disposable computers, there could be a market for products like this, especially as awareness of the vast amounts of tech we throw away daily grows.

By Mathieu Ramage