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Cartridge impact on environment explored

March 31, 2017

An article looks at recycling in the printing industry and the measurable effect of discarding cartridges.

The Energy Collective reported that in comparison to the bigger climate topics, ink cartridges “are a minor issue”, and said that such issues still “deserve attention”, questioning the severity of the impact of ink cartridges and printers on the environment. During manufacturing, both printers and cartridges are made with chemicals such as butyl urea, cyclohexanone and dyes that contain sulphur like “ethoxylated acetylenic diols which modify the surface tension of the water and colours; Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) which is full of contaminants and ethylene glycol”.

Manufactured laser cartridges consume “more than three quarts of oil”, while inkjet cartridges “consume about three ounces”. The plastics used for the cartridge case are made from polymer and take 450 to 1,000 years to decompose. The article noted that throwing away old cartridges has adverse effects on the environment, as the toxins and heavy metals “pollute soil and water” with “volatile organic compounds (VOCs)”. They are dumped in landfill sites where 375 million empty cartridges end up every year, which is 11 cartridges every second or one million every day, and decomposition takes 1,000 years.

According to the International Agency for the Research on Cancer, toner cartridges are classified as a “potential carcinogenic”, so not disposing of them correctly also has a damaging outcome. Recycling cartridges, however, helps to “conserve energy and natural resources”, and saves 11 million gallons of oil in just seven months. Since 97 percent of the parts of cartridges can be recycled, it makes sense to do so, which leaves just three percent of waste.

The article looked at the impact on greenhouse gases (GHG) per cartridge, and said that “a single toner cartridge emits 4.8kg CO2” while the life cycle assessment of toner found there is evidence that the “GHG emissions are in the region of 16 metric tons per one metric ton of toner produced”, meaning each toner cartridge emits 3.2kg CO2.

In comparing a household of four emitting 1,200kg of CO2 per month, the article found that a manufacturer can make 200,000 cartridges per month, which is 640,000kg of CO2, or equal to the “output of over 500 average homes”. This can be reduced simply by reusing and recycling all cartridges, and yet 50 percent are still thrown away.

It was also noted that recycling and reuse should be part of education, and that minimising print jobs and using duplex printing will save ink and toner as well as money, but most important is to recycle the printer cartridge, as the impact on the environment is indeed measurable.


Categories : Around the Industry

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