How Green is Your Ink?


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E-cycle… recycle… return… remanufacture… reuse… refill

Are you getting confused? This is not a new Thesaurus that I am trying to compile. This is just a list of words which are often heard when we discuss ink cartridges. So many ‘re’-s make you ‘rethink’ about the eco-friendliness of the ink cartridge you use. Does the brand of ink you use increase or decrease the pollution level of the world? In other words – ‘How Green is Your Ink?’

There was a time when home printing was unheard of and pollution was more or less controlled as it was confined to the printing presses. Now, not only has the volume of printing increased tremendously but also the waste generated due to it. While printing at home, we mostly discard empty ink cartridges instead of returning it to the manufacturer for recycling, reusing or refilling.

We hardly ever consider the fact that it takes more than a 1,000 years for the plastics used in printer cartridges to decompose. The production of each new cartridge consumes 2 ½ ounces of oil. Approximately 167 million inkjet cartridges are usually used as land-fills causing considerable environmental pollution. However, most of the trash generated is avoidable.

Using remanufactured or refilled cartridges solves the problem of pollution to a certain extent as well as saves resources. Most of the top OEMs have begun re-manufacturing environment-friendly, recyclable ink cartridges and toners. The companies follow stringent quality standards like ISO 9001, and produce cartridges which have higher page yield.

Hewlett Packard has launched a new smaller and lighter cartridge packaging to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The convenient size of the new packages aspires to reduce truck traffic in North America by approximately 1.5 million miles this year. It also uses recycled content paperboard instead of PVC to pack printer cartridges.

Since December 2006, Epson has started replacing the white ink cartridge packaging with recycled brown cardboard for its large format ink cartridges. The printing on the packages will be changed from color to black and white to reduce the use of chemicals. Epson also aims at eliminating dyes and lessening fabrication processes by making ink cartridge casings in natural color.

Canon participates extensively in environmental issues and offers grants for related projects. During the development stage of the manufacturing process, the effect of the products on the environment is assessed. Preventive steps are included into the product design to reduce the hazards.

But this is what the OEMs do. What about you? How eco-conscious are you as a consumer? Did you know that the parts used to manufacture cartridges, like aluminium, steel, plastic, toner, ink and foam can be reused to make a range of new products?

The inkjet inks, pigment color agent used in toners and plastics can be reused to produce eWood (a plastic timber replacement product). Steel and aluminium can be smelted into new steel and aluminium products and used to produce structural metal beams for buildings.

So, the next time your printer runs out of ink, make a smart and eco-friendly disposal of your cartridge.

Bobby Hudson is the writer of articles for , an online retailer of printer supplies and storage media .


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