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ECS’s Operations Director Adam Lighton discusses the Environmental Impact of Reuse vs. Recycling of Toner and Inkjet Cartridges

Environmental sustainability is a critical choice that is yours to make

Do you ever consider the consequences of your businesses functions and processes? Surely not – we’re only dealing with toner cartridges, right? Well here’s some news for you; environmental sustainability is a critical factor that must be considered by all businesses of the modern era, even more so in our industry.

It’s most likely that you’ve heard it all before, but the message clearly doesn’t resonate with some companies, otherwise landfills wouldn’t be a hotspot destination for the majority of toner cartridges that come to the end of their life cycle, our oceans would be clear and we wouldn’t be running out of oil. Unfortunately none of these ideals are close to being a reality.

It’s important to take into consideration the lifecycle of the products you buy, sell, use, or distribute, as well as what happens to them when they reach their ‘end-of-life’ stage. Reuse and recycle are two options that we have when it comes to toner cartridges and inkjet cartridges, but when we take into consideration the waste hierarchy, one option is more favourable than the other, but what, which, how, and why?

OEM print cartridges are environmentally preferable across their entire lifecycle

Conventional wisdom tells us that remanufacturing is always the most environmentally sustainable end-of-life treatment available for toner and inkjet cartridges. Virgin OEM cartridges are ideal for reuse, as their print quality is able to be maintained through a remanufacturing process, meaning that they can be used successfully again and again. Alternatively, non-OEM cartridges are not environmentally preferable, simply because their overall quality is not comparable with a remanufactured OEM cartridge and cannot be remanufactured. In addition to this, an unbelievable amount of compatible toners actually infringe multiple patents, making these cartridges even less attractive for any type of re-usage.

The majority of non OEM (compatible) cartridges are simply incinerated or sent to landfill where they will take thousands of years to decompose, releasing toxic substances in the meantime which are harmful to both ourselves and our planet. This option, which comes under the disposal section of the waste hierarchy is the least preferable choice available when it comes to the end-of-life stage for any product, therefore it is better to use the most preferable option when considering compatible cartridges, which is the prevention of their production in the first place.

Innovation can provide alternatives to disposal

As both a remanufacturer and recycler, recovery and reuse are key to ECS’s values, as well as our goal of achieving a UK circular economy. For ECS, landfill is never an option, and it doesn’t have to be for you either. Recent innovations have provided us with new ways of recovering and reusing plastic that haven’t been done in the past – ways which prevent single-use plastics that have reached their end-of-life from being just another kilogram of landfill waste. One example of this is being done by a business in the West of Scotland, who have created a way to make use of plastic to create new roads and carparks – plastic that would have otherwise gone into landfill. The company claims that 1km of new road using this technique would use approximately 684,000 plastic bottles or 1.8m single-use plastic bags, and this is just one of many ways in which you can operate while taking environmental sustainability into consideration.

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