An essay from LaserSave, Inc. on the office supply recycling industry. LaserSave sells remanufactured toner cartridges and more.

Recycling: everybody wins
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Three reasons to recycle
toner cartridges

By Don Burich, President of LaserSave, Inc.

Americans are still relatively new to the practice of recycling. The beliefs are fairly well in place, but it is our human nature for practice to lag somewhat behind beliefs. (A poll of college students showed 94% agreeing that everyone is responsible for cleaning up litter, while only 10.4% said they actually did so.) Until recently, only 10% of Americans recycled.

Now, families in Wisconsin, the United States, and many parts of the world have grown accustomed to recycling paper, glass and metal. As they do at home, they are increasingly doing at work. This has produced a strong increase in toner cartridge remanufacturing.

Fifteen years ago, all toner cartridges were thrown away. Recycling was not encouraged by hardware manufacturers and wasn't seen as an option by users. By the end of the 1990s, the situation had turned around. People who watch the financial bottom line and those who watch the environment are agreeing that remanufacturing makes good sense.

3 Ways We Win


Reasons for Growth
in Remanufacturing

At LaserSave, we have seen three factors driving the increased use of remanufactured toner cartridges:

A. Legislation has built awareness. In recent years, many states have passed legislation requiring businesses to design and implement a variety of recycling programs. Toner cartridges are not normally included in this legislation, but the awareness and momentum gradually generated by these programs have led to the growth of cartridge remanufacturing.

B. Old restrictions no longer apply. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of printers, copiers, fax machines, etc., were eager to promote their sales of toner cartridges and other consumables. Several years ago, many had policies that they would not support their warranties if remanufactured or non-OEM cartridges were used in their products - making consumers and businesses understandably reluctant to recycle. The courts have said "no" to that practice. Consumers, the courts have ruled, are free to use the cartridge of their choice, with full warranty protection unless it should be proved that the cartridge, paper or other non-OEM consumable caused the problem. (Remanufacturers like LaserSave offer 100% guarantees on their products.)

C. The remanufacturing industry has grown up. Ten years ago, this was an industry often conducted by mom-and-pop or basement operators. While the quality of many of these small firms was excellent, some were shoddy. Some did not know how to manage a business or please their customers. Now, business people have helped the industry achieve stability. Corporations such as LaserSave can demonstrate a proven track record and offer a list of references from long-term business customers.




Win #1: Saving Money

Recycling a toner cartridge instead of buying a new one saves 20 to 50% of the cost, depending on the model and other factors. There are several reasons for the savings.

  • Savings from reusing the cartridge case and the many non-wearing components. (Parts that affect quality and performance are routinely replaced during remanufacturing).
  • Remanufacturing is a competitive business with low to normal profit margins. On the other hand, OEMs often price hardware at a lower margin to acquire the customer and then hope for ongoing sales of consumables at higher profits.
  • Remanufactured cartridges often perform better than new ones. Strange as it may sound, the photoconductor drum used in toner cartridges performs best after about 2,500 copies (this is true of both OEM drums and the high performance drums used at LaserSave). With new OEM cartridges, after the drum has had enough use to become optimized, it's typical for the toner to run out. Remanufacturing that cartridge will give better quality than installing a new one and having to break it in.
  • Remanufactured cartridges often last longer than new ones. One, the lion's share of OEM cartridges are filled with toner by automated equipment. We and our customers have documented that some OEM cartridges are shorted in toner and produce fewer copies. LaserSave remanufactured cartridges are refilled with the same amount of toner each time. With some cartridge types, this is notably more toner than used by the OEM. Secondly, LaserSave uses a premium toner (graphic quality) that is both finer and matched to our high-performance drum. The result is more copies for less money.




Win #2: Saving Landfill

Our industry is still growing, but already it remanufactures more than 24 million cartridges each year. That keeps 76,000,000 pounds (38,000 tons) of plastic and scrap metal out of landfills. Toner cartridges are like other plastics in taking up about 2.5 times as much space per pound as other forms of refuse -- so recycling saves considerable room.

It also saves taxpayer dollars in reducing the expenses of operating landfills. With landfill space getting scarcer and regulation increasing, these costs are significant and will become more so. The plastics included in discarded toner cartridges are made of an engineering grade polymer. According to Thomas Nosker, director of Rutgers University Plastics & Composites Group, that plastic does not degrade any time soon.

"If that plastic is left in a landfill," Nosker says, "and then dug up in 1,000 years, it will still be intact."

Recycling the plastic parts of spent cartridges is not a valid option. Most of them fall into classification #6 - a category where the cost of recycling is greater than the cost of new material. Counties such as Outagamie in Wisconsin do not accept classification #6 materials.



Win #3: Saving Oil

It may be surprising to realize that recycling toner cartridges reduces America's use of oil. Cartridges are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or high-impact polystyrene (HIPS). Fossil fuel, either oil or natural gas, is used in the manufacturing process.

According to Nosker, this process requires 47,700 BTUs for ABS and 50,400 BTUs for HIPS. This means three quarts of oil are burned in making each cartridge. By recycling 24 million cartridges a year, our industry saves 18 million gallons of oil. Future savings will be greater as recycling increases.

To put it another way, the average administrative assistant or secretary uses about 7.2 toner cartridges per year. A cartridge can be recycled six times before it is normally replaced with a new one. Thus, if remanufactured cartridges are not being used, he or she wastes enough oil to fill 20 Seven-Eleven Big Gulps(TM) each year.

"Nice idea, but..." Some business people, aware of the money savings and environmental benefits, might say, "It's on my list of things to look into, but with my responsibilities, it never gets to the top of the list."

At LaserSave, we know the feeling. Our response has been to make recycling risk-free and as easy as a phone call.

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Copyright 2011 by LaserSave, Inc., Appleton, WI 54911
LaserSave, Inc. recycles toner cartridges, inkjet cartridges, printer ribbons and other office machine consumables by remanufacturing them. This saves money for our customers, and helps the U.S. environment. LaserSave products in home or office can be part of a worthwhile program of office recycling.