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EU targets printer sustainability, proposes radical Ecodesign measures

February 29, 2024

JRC unveils ambitious ecodesign proposals to enhance printer and cartridge sustainability, aiming for a circular economy.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) has released a detailed Preparatory Study advocating for stringent regulatory measures under the Ecodesign Directive. This initiative marks a significant shift from the voluntary agreement approach that has governed the sector since 2015, emphasising a more robust stance on environmental conservation and resource efficiency.

The Preparatory Study conducted by the JRC highlights the environmental hotspots of imaging equipment, notably in raw materials and product manufacturing, while pointing out that energy use during the operational phase is not as significant an issue as other consumer products. The study advocates for extending the lifetime of printers through reparability and durability, and for cartridges, recommends using material-efficient designs and increasing the use of remanufactured cartridges to reduce environmental impact.

A range of ecodesign measures have been proposed to enhance device longevity, improve energy savings, optimise paper consumption, and promote the use of post-consumer recycled plastic. For consumables, the focus is improving cartridge capacity utilisation and facilitating remanufacturing. These recommendations emerged from an extensive consultation process with stakeholders, reflecting a consensus on the necessity for more stringent, enforceable standards.

The JRC’s recommendations for improving imaging equipment’s sustainability and efficiency are comprehensive and forward-looking, focusing on enhancing the environmental performance and consumer utility of printers and cartridges.

For Consumables, the JRC recommends introducing minimum mandatory page yield requirements for ink and toner cartridges, aiming to improve their capacity utilisation and to ensure that cartridges last longer and reduce the frequency of replacements, benefiting both the environment and the consumer.

JRC’s proposals to facilitate the remanufacturing of cartridges include ensuring physical access to the chip without damaging the cartridge and compliance with durability and reliability standards. The goal is to make cartridges easier to remanufacture, promoting a circular economy.

© 2024, European Commission, Joint Research Centre

For printers (devices), the JRC recommends introducing measures to ensure devices last longer, including a design for disassembly requirements, guaranteed availability of spare parts, and software or firmware updates. This approach aims to make printers more repairable and durable, extending their service life and reducing waste.

The JRC suggests implementing stricter requirements for non-active modes of printers, surpassing those in current regulations. This includes reducing power consumption and the transition time between active and non-active modes, tapping into untapped potential for energy savings.

Better paper optimisation is another recommendation, encouraging functionality that allows printing on both sides of the paper and optimising paper consumption to reduce waste.

JRC also proposes to increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastic in manufacturing printers, making them more sustainable and setting minimum material efficiency requirements to drive the market towards simpler, single-part cartridge designs. This move aims to reduce the environmental footprint of cartridges by making them less complex and easier to recycle or remanufacture.

© 2024, European Commission, Joint Research Centre

ETIRA, the European Toner and Inkjet Remanufacturers Association, welcomed the Preparatory Study published by JRC, which is “the scientific basis for the upcoming EU ecodesign legislation covering the printing industry.”

ETIRA President Javier Martinez said: “To lower the environmental footprint of printing, the JRC proposes many strong measures to support and grow cartridge reuse. The measures include tools for more extended durability of printers, lower energy consumption, access to printer firmware/software for professional remanufacturers, cartridge design rules allowing easier reuse, information on repair instructions, prohibition of printer messages discouraging the use of non-OEM cartridges, etc.

Over the past three years, ETIRA, European NGOs and Member States have worked hard to show the EU institutions that remanufacturing a cartridge multiple times before recycling it brings the best environmental performance, is fully in line with the EU’s Green Deal objectives, and lowers printing costs for consumers. In the coming months, we will work with all stakeholders to ensure the positive JRC findings will be implemented into the draft EU regulation.”

The recommendations have garnered varied feedback from stakeholders, reflecting the complexity of balancing environmental goals with market realities. While environmental NGOs and consumer groups have largely supported these measures, some manufacturers express concerns about the feasibility and potential market impact, particularly regarding the ambitious page yield requirements and material efficiency standards.

Our take on this: The JRC’s recommendations represent a critical step towards integrating eco-design principles into the imaging equipment sector. By focusing on reparability, energy efficiency, material use, and the lifecycle impact of products, these measures aim to foster innovation, reduce environmental impact, and offer consumers more sustainable and cost-effective solutions.

Categories : World Focus

Tags : Cartridges Ecolabel ETIRA EU JRC

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