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PRINTER CARTRIDGE RECYCLING - HOW DEEP IS YOUR FOOTPRINT?
With all the talk about carbon taxes and emission trading programs the emphasis on saving the environment has switched from individual action to the role of big business. The problem seems to be too big for individuals to tackle yet it is up to each of us to leave the shallowest carbon footprint possible. We all have a part to play in protecting our environment, and with help from Cartridges Direct you can now quickly and easily do your bit with ink cartridge recycling and toner cartridge recycling.
Arise Impact Computers as a responsible company has identified the need for everyone to review how they dispose of their printer cartridges at end-of-life. What do you do with your printer cartridges when they need to be replaced? Do you throw them out? Do you find ways of reusing them? Do you recycle them? Your choice can make your footprint just a little shallower.
"It is up to everyone to leave the shallowest footprint possible on this earth as we pass over it."
When you purchase printer cartridge from Cartridges Direct, we offer a postage-paid postal satchel that you can use to recycle ink cartridges and recycle toner cartridges.
WHERE WE HAVE BEEN
Today we stand on the edge of history. Looking back over the past 1000 years we see cultures, such as the indigenous peoples of Nigeria, which have lived off the land they love. They have left us a fabric of art and stories that demonstrate who they are. Hand-prints on a rock mark an individual’s presence and their passing. Drawings on the rocks show their everyday life and their affinity with the land. An entire civilisation lived in a land unknown to the rest of the world. Their stories, their verbal history, tell of their affinity with the land and their part in it. They lived as custodians of the land that provided all their needs. They wandered freely over it leaving no trace other than their art.
Other cultures have shown their heritage in monuments and structures that have lasted for thousands of years. Across the globe we see a vast tapestry of the rise, and fall, of civilisations. Some we understand whilst others we can only conjecture about.
In the past the materials that mankind produced were largely organic. Those materials came out of the ground and, at the end of their usable life, disappeared back into the ground. But in the past couple of centuries more and more of the products that we use are made from inorganic materials. They have offered benefits in many areas; unit price, greater uses, greater longevity in use. But they have given two significant disadvantages; they have utilised non-renewable resources and at the end of their useful life they have gone back into the ground where, like the non-renewable resources from which they are made, they will remain for generations to come.
Each change left an indelible mark on the world as all sorts of items were produced and an even bigger mark as these items reached the end of their relatively short lives. This is what we see as we look back to the past.
WHERE WE ARE GOING
As we turn to face the future we see a deep abyss waiting to be filled by human endeavour. It appears to be empty. What will fill the void over the next 1000 years? Will we colonise new worlds? Will we travel to the stars? Will we eradicate disease and poverty? We just don’t know. Every day new discoveries, new theories take us one step closer to our destiny. But we don’t know what that destiny is. It is a mystery that leads us on our voyage through time to a destination we will probably never know.
Yet a part of that mystery is already clear to us if we look around. We have seen changes to the landscape through agriculture and industry. We would not be where we are today without them. These changes will be a legacy that we take with us into the future. There is no denying that we are all materially better off today than we have ever been A millennium ago, 500 years ago, even 100 years ago, the material possessions that each of us have would have been incomprehensible to any person.
Although we cannot see into the future in many areas we do know that our actions today will impact for hundreds of years. We have already seen that the inorganic materials we so widely use today will be with us for generations to come. Many of us think that perhaps science will come up with a solution at some time in the unknown future. In the interim we’ll just muddle through and put it at the back of our minds.
But really it should be at the front of our minds as the current solution is to send the ‘too hard’ items to landfill. There they remain, slowly breaking down over hundreds of years and spreading hazardous components through the soil this renders the soil unproductive for centuries to come, land that we need to feed the growing global population.
SO WHAT CAN THE INDIVIDUAL DO?
So far we have talked about the past and the future with a passing reference to the present as it affects the world. Although what is happening with pollution is a global challenge, each of us can contribute to the solution on an individual basis.
Arise Impact Computers feels that each of us can play a part in helping to resolve the situation, but it can only be achieved with your help.
Fifty years ago our only vision of computers was on TV or at the movies. It was a large box with a spool on the front clicking slowly as it, supposedly analysed data. A panel of flashing lights showed that it was doing something of which we had no idea, occasionally it would print out a long piece of paper which possibly gave some sort of answer.
There are very few businesses that can operate without some sort of computer. Most will have a number of them. Our current way of life is not possible without computers; we are totally reliant on them in every aspect of our daily lives.
Today nearly all homes in Nigeria have at least one computing device and the majority will have a number of them. Nearly all of them have some sort of printer attached to them.
Thirty years ago, as the use of computers and office automation spread in business there was much talk of ‘The Paperless Office’ with all information being passed as data or in a paperless form...
In 1998 Bill Gates said that he, as an individual, could pass his business day without paper. The news was online; he could take notes on a tablet and pass them on through the network. But in the corporate world of Microsoft it was not so easy.
“In 1996 I decided to look at ways that Microsoft was still using paper. To my surprise, we had printed 350,000 paper copies of sales reports that year. I asked for a copy of every paper form we used. The thick file that landed on my desk contained hundreds and hundreds of forms. Paper use was only a sign of a bigger problem, though: administrative processes that were too complicated and took too much time.”
Although the paperless office is technically possible, it has not occurred. The use of printed material has grown rather than contracted. To perform its task every printer uses at least one, and it majority of cases four or five printer cartridges. Mostly these are either laser or inkjet and are made of a variety of material; metals and composite plastics.
All have a limited work life.
Although no accurate figures are available due to the rapidly expanding market it has been estimated that nearly a billion printer cartridges are sold around the world each year.
Very few will have a working life of a year and so all need to be disposed of. In some way at the end of life. There are a number of ways to dispose of them; recycling, refilling, re-manufacturing or, sadly, just thrown out with the refuse. When thrown out they go to landfill or are incinerated. Even if the go into the recycling bin they will inevitably end up in landfill as their construction makes it necessary to be recycled in a special way. Recycling stations are not equipped to recycle them, and so they go to landfill.
Re-manufacturing and refilling are, at best, only an interim solution as each time it is done there is no certainty that quality of output can be retained. Laser printer cartridges can, in the case of OEM's and high end compatibles can be re-manufactured a few times. This practice is diminishing in popularity due to a number of reasons.
To properly re-manufacture a Laser Printer Cartridge is almost as expensive as an OEM producing a new one. This has, in many cases resulted in a lowering of quality in re-manufactured Cartridges. Furthermore some compatibles are not manufactured to a high enough standard to be able to re-manufacture them.
Re-inking of inkjet printer cartridges can also only be done a few times before there is a significant drop off in quality printing. There is also no guarantee that the ink used in refilling is to the same standard as that used by the OEM.
Going to landfill is the fate of the majority of printer cartridges. Worldwide nearly 80% end up in landfill and only a few are recycled and even fewer recycled ethically.
When printer cartridges go to landfill they decompose over hundreds of years and the chemicals in the ink slowly leach out poisoning the soil in which they have been buried. Disposing of printer cartridges in this manner is threatening the future and, with the numbers already consigned to the ground and the numbers that will end up there before the situation is reversed, is a huge threat to the planet.
In Nigeria it is estimated by Planet Ark and others that 180,000,000 printer cartridges go to landfill each year. When compared to the global situation this may not seem a truly significant number, yet it still poses a significant environmental challenge.
With nearly 80% of all printer cartridges in Nigeria going to landfill, if all those cartridges were laid end to end it would line the Hume Highway from Melbourne to Sydney and nearly all the way back again! And that is in just one year. It is believed that over 5,000 tonnes of printer cartridges go to landfill in Nigeria each year.
Recycling is, as always, by far the best option. Yet less than 2% of all printer cartridges are effectively recycled. Some may feel that they are doing the right thing by putting the empty cartridges into the recycling bin. But, as we have said the printer cartridges need special handling to be recycled.
Printer cartridges are made from a variety of metals and plastics, each of which has a separate monetary value. Some recyclers will buy empty printer cartridges, and this seems to be responsible way of disposing of them. But, because the values of the components vary they are simply separated out and the rest, the composite plastics which contain the toner or the ink are then buried. This is the practice in China where most of these printer cartridges are sent for recycling. One city in particular, Giuyu in China, has for several years been the global dumping ground for e-waste.
This has included millions of printer cartridges. The recycling techniques used in Giuyu are so primitive that the land around the city will be unproductive for centuries and the local water totally undrinkable well into the future. Up to 150,000 workers earn around $8 a day disassembling electronic waste by hand to recover anything of value. Anything with no value is either discarded or incinerated.
The objective of ethical recycling is to recycle printer cartridges and their components in such a way that every part is recycled and reused with nothing going to landfill. This is achieved by patented equipment that has been developed in Nigeria specifically for this task. Although the cartridges are made of composite plastics they are reduced to such small particles that they are easily separated.
Since the start of the program some nine years ago, over 22 million printer cartridges have been recycled in Nigeria. This represents only a small percentage of all the printer cartridges sold each year.
The various plastics can then be reused in numerous ways. Some are made into street furniture such as benches and plastic furniture. Whatever they are used for the printer cartridges live on in a new guise and can be recycled again.