Every year in the United States, 350 million used ink and toner cartridges are thrown away, with the majority ending up in landfills. A single discarded cartridge from a laser printer adds roughly 2 pounds of metal and plastic pollution to our landfills—waste that takes 1,000 years to decompose entirely. The math is simple but staggering: we contribute 700 million pounds of waste to our environment yearly from empty printer cartridges alone.
It may seem like a small problem compared to the greater challenge of pollution or climate change, but the environmental impact from trashing used printer cartridges deserves our attention. While 700 pounds of cartridge landfill waste is unsightly, and prevents habitation or wildlife, the CO2 emissions from manufacturing those cartridges are even worse.
According to the environmental think tank, Energy Collective Group, a single printer cartridge emits 4.8kg of carbon emissions (or greenhouse gases) during production. If we consider that approximately 500 million printer cartridges are sold in the U.S. per year, that equals 2.4 billion kilograms (or a whopping 2.4 million metric tons) of carbon emissions solely from cartridge manufacturing.
To put these figures in perspective, the EPA estimates that the average passenger vehicle creates 4.6 metric tons of CO2 each year. In other words, the amount of CO2 released by manufacturing printer cartridges in the United States each year is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from 521,739 cars––over half a million cars! Perhaps, the daily environmental impact of ink and toner cartridges isn’t such a small problem after all.
Most of us want to reduce our carbon footprint in some capacity, create eco-friendly solutions to help individuals and industries thrive, and avoid ruining the planet for future generations. Even those who are not sold on environmental sustainability will be alarmed at the impact used printer cartridges also have on our health.
The toner used in printing cartridges contains the chemical carbon black, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has recognized as a possible carcinogen. At the very least, trashing printer cartridges has the potential to release carbon black dust into the air, which irritates your upper respiratory tract, and poses even greater risk to those with bronchial illnesses or asthma.
Evaluating your printer needs, use and waste is important for two key reasons: it reduces our carbon footprint and makes for a healthier work environment. Here are a few eco-friendly printer options to consider as you manage your printer fleet. Try these sustainable ideas, and in no time, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint, too.
The easiest and most obvious way to sustainably dispose of used printer cartridges is recycling. Industry leaders such as Hewlett Packard (HP) have introduced large-scale cartridge recycling programs. United Laser is proud to partner with HP in recycling both hardware and cartridges to encourage environmental sustainability.
For instance, United Laser offers our customers a courtesy box (for 6-8 used cartridges) with prepaid shipping in order to facilitate the process of recycling your used cartridges. We are proud to report that United Laser saves, on average, over 10,000 pounds of cartridges landfills each month.
Repair & Reuse
We also recommend professional printer repair and reusing for your existing devices, instead of trashing an old printer. United Laser’s managed printer repair services can extend the life of your fleet, adding updates and years, without contributing to landfill waste. United Laser provides printer repair services for over 30 manufacturers, including HP, Xerox and Lexmark.
It’s easy to remember to reuse or recycle, but many people forget the all-important third option: reducing. We encourage you to review your device workflow and needs to reduce not only the hardware waste from your copier or printer fleet, but unnecessary devices, as well. Improving office efficiency is at the top of every department list; not only can you save money by reducing unused or unnecessary MFP devices, but you prevent landfill waste by returning your printers for reuse or recycling to a managed print services company, like United Laser.
As you can see, recycling, reducing, repairing and reusing your printing devices can make a huge impact on the environment, your health and your bottom line.