Te Radar: Office memos finally of use

By Andrew "Te Radar" Lumsden

Days spent in the office can sometimes be crap, but all is not lost.
"A Japanese company has invented the 'White Goat Machine'. This contraption converts used office paper into toilet paper." Photo / Getty Images
"A Japanese company has invented the 'White Goat Machine'. This contraption converts used office paper into toilet paper." Photo / Getty Images

I have no idea what the toilet paper bill is for a large office building, or how much they might use per person on average, but I'd like to know, because toilet paper has been described as one of the greatest excesses of the modern age.

Fortunately a Japanese company has invented the "White Goat Machine". This contraption converts used office paper into toilet paper.

The machine stands 1½ meters tall, weighs 600kgs, sells for a mere $130,000, and can regurgitate a toilet roll created from 40 sheets of A4 in a mere 30 minutes. That makes for some very expensive toilet paper. Assuming you aren't stockpiling them, or selling them as a new venture, you might just break even after a quarter of a million rolls, so long as you don't factor in the electricity needed to run it.

However, you may not have to, because the White Goat Machine could be self-powered. By installing an in-house system to capture the office's bio-waste, then passing it through a bio-digester to harness the methane, it could provide fuel to generate the electricity required to power the White Goat.

Small-scale systems like this are often suggested for developing nations, but maybe it is time for the developed nations to do their bit too. The time has come to literally stop flushing valuable resources down the toilet.

In the future office the White Goat could sit next to rows of urine-powered cell phone chargers. A team at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory managed to figure out a way to charge smartphones using microbial fuel cells, which convert pee into power.

Admittedly it's not a lot of power at this stage, but just think of the teambuilding potential the HR department will endeavor to instill into their manufactured interdepartmental rivalries to compel people to produce more power per quarter.

Quite how one injects the fuel into the chargers I do not know. Still, it can't be rocket science. That would be using anaerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria to convert the ammonia from urine into hydrazine, which is a rocket fuel.

Who would ever have thought that we all contained a fuel source to power humans into the final frontier? Quite possibly anyone who can understand the previous paragraph.

It's not as if the call to harness urine as a resource is new. In ancient Rome collection vessels were commonplace in the streets, and when they were full the contents were diluted and used as a very effective laundry liquid. Others used it as a tooth whitening treatment, but I'm pretty sure that won't catch on again.

It has to be a better idea than reusable toilet wipes. These washable strips of soft fabric are touted as a modern eco-friendly alternative to toilet paper.

One of the benefits mooted on a website touting the wipes was that they saved you a late night trip to the shop to buy toilet paper. This is not true.

You will be making more trips than ever to buy the laundry liquid required to wash the wipes and restore them to somewhere near reusable.

Even the thought of all of the plastic required to manufacture the ziplock bags needed to haul your used wipes home in order to launder them is enough to put most planet-loving people off the idea.

At least the White Goat Machine can bring a great deal of pleasure to office staff, knowing that all of those redundant HR memos they are feeding into it are being put to a fitting use. They might just want to make sure the staples are removed first though.

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