The past few decades have reaffirmed that printing is a part of everyone’s life. Whether it is in an office setting where an employee is printing a meeting presentation, or on a billboard advertising our dream car on the side of the road, we are exposed to and use printing in just about every aspect of our lives. Even though it has become an integral part of our day to day, the general population is unaware of both the supplies that go into building a printer and, more importantly, how to best handle toner and ink cartridges to minimize pollution in our environment.
Once we have a better understanding of printing supplies and the affects to our environment, we can become more proactive about managing used printing supplies in a responsible and eco-friendly way.
What is in a Toner or Ink Cartridge?
It may seem obvious, but apart from the springs and screws located in most printers, toner cartridges, tubes and bottles are made of plastic. Most of the printers that the general public uses are divided into two technical categories: Laser & Inkjet.
Laser printers use toner cartridges filled with crude oil-based powder. This solvent is comprised of plastic slabs that are broken, crushed, and ground down into fine powder. These specialized plastic particles stick to the paper and are melted into place by applying heat and pressure.
Inkjet printers use liquid ink cartridges that are made of heavy petroleum distillate combined with pigments to create ink that is designed to dry by evaporation. This technology uses print heads containing tiny holes to insert microscopic droplets of ink onto paper.
Each toner or ink cartridge has a specific document listing the parts. This document is called Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Even though most brands use crude oil-based powder or ink, there are some eco-friendly solutions such as soybean, linseed and vegetable-based alternatives for both ink and toner powder solutions. These solutions have become increasingly popular given their cost-effective nature and their more positive impact on the environment.
The Shocking Reality
It is estimated that, worldwide, over 350 million ink and toner cartridges are thrown away every year. This is equivalent to 11-13 cartridges each second. The degradation time of these products are estimated as approximately 450-1000 years. Educating the general public about the toxic impacts of most printers is vital to eliminating printing waste.
How Can You Minimize Your Organization’s Carbon Footprint?
- Participate in cartridge collection programs
- Use high quality, remanufactured toner. These products have a 44% less total environmental footprint then their brand-new variants.
- Get involved in green initiatives such as the PrintReleaf. The PrintReleaf platform seamlessly integrates Managed Print Services to offer clients the opportunity to offset their paper footprint and contribute to global reforestation efforts on a monthly basis. PrintReleaf uses patented technology to track paper consumption and calculate the number of trees harvested. Using this data, PrintReleaf guarantees to certifiably reforest the number of trees used by each client.