Taking Them Back: How Recycling Toner Containers Help The Planet
By Scott Bowen
Printer toner has been around since 1969. The first laser printer for commercial use appeared in 1976, and the first mass-market laser printer bumped off the dot-matrix printer in 1984.
Today, businesses large and small burn through toner cartridges at an amazing rate. American consumers buy about 70 million toner cartridges every year.
Like soda bottles and scrap metal, toner cartridges can and should be recycled — either refurbished for reuse or broken down into what reusable parts they have. It can help the environment and generate business. Getting started is easy.
Manufacturer Recycling Programs For The Office
Most consumers know about retail-level programs that enable you to send empty cartridges back to manufacturers. These often involve a drop-off at an office supply store or shipper. EveryCartridge.com provides a consumer-focused list of manufacturer return programs.
At the business level, supplies often come from a registered vendor — you’re not buying them piecemeal at a store. So how can there be a return program? More manufacturers are getting into this for businesses. The easiest is the “seal and send” program. Here’s how it works: The printer-services vendor drops off a recycling box for whatever brand of toner cartridge you use. You put the empties in the box until it’s full, then seal it and send it to the recycler. Return costs are often covered by the manufacturer.
A significant number of manufacturers that participate in office-based toner-cartridge recycling are moving their empty cartridges into closed-loop recycling systems where the goal is to keep everything possible out of a landfill.
Close the Loop, the recycler of choice of a number of major print manufacturers, including Kyocera Document Solutions America, aims for 100 percent cartridge reuse and recycling. If a new cartridge can’t be created out of an empty, then the component parts — toner, metal, plastic — are processed for use in the manufacturing of a wide array of consumer or industrial products, from pens to asphalt to park benches. And Close the Loop offers in-office collection programs for businesses.
The Environmental Impact Of Cartridge Reuse
Americans are tossing away about 1 million cartridges a day, or approximately 70 percent of the world’s non-recycled cartridges annually. More than 500 million toner cartridges end up in landfills globally every year, each cartridge taking from 450 to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Bury a cartridge in your backyard and your future self can dig it up, generally unchanged, in 2317.
A single toner cartridge includes up to 2 pounds of plastic and metal (mostly aluminum) — materials that can and should be used again.
Closed-loop recycling can keep cartridges out of landfills and incinerators by using cartridge materials to manufacture new cartridges (that’s the “closed loop” — cartridges beget cartridges). Producing new cartridges arising from old ones reduces the need for raw materials — the metals and plastics — and the fuel to transport them.
This circular process can also be tightened to use less fossil fuel and water in manufacturing than what’s used to create a cartridge from the original raw materials. That’s of both environmental and economic value when nearly a gallon of oil goes into manufacturing a brand-new toner cartridge.
Starting A Recycling Program At Work
Larger companies often have a relationship with a vendor, like Close the Loop, which handles recycling. There’s often a point person in the firm who knows if the vendor is sending cartridges into some form of recycling.
If your business is smaller or in need of developing a recycling plan, nonprofit advocacy group Keep America Beautiful maintains a site called Recycling at Work, which offers step-by-step instructions for initiating and maintaining an overall recycling program for cartridges, scrap paper and other recyclables.
If you and your co-workers want to turn cartridges into charitable contributions, check out Recycle4Charity.com.
Originally published on Forbes Kyocera Brand Voice.