In research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, a team at the University of California developed a multi-use option for one of our most ancient mediums: a reusable “paper” that has been created without harming a single tree. Right now, the “paper” is actually a thin plastic film that comes coated in one of three shades of nontoxic dye: blue, red, or green. To “write” on the paper, it’s exposed to ultra-violet light and the dye is rendered colorless in the areas of text. It can be reused up to 20 times and never needs new ink.

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Our digital world is ever-changing, and with it have come great advances in communication and the reduction in single-use items. Unfortunately, we’re still using an enormous amount of paper, and therefore trees as well. Most of the paper used in our businesses and personal lives serves a one-time purpose and is discarded after reading. As a result, the problem of deforestation weighs heavily on the minds of most eco-stewards. This reusable paper is a huge step towards paper-free offices, and has the potential to save entire forests of trees that would otherwise be felled for the sake of office memos.

After the product is fully developed, researchers say it will be more cost-effective and eco-friendly than paper made from trees. They hope this new reusable media will eventually be good for up to 100 uses.

+ UCR: Chemists Fabricate Novel Rewritable Paper

Images via UCR Today and Jessejay.