The promise of a paperless office has yet to materialize for many organizations that are still big consumers of printer paper and ink and toner cartridges. But as the spotlight shines on green computing, manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of their products and packaging. Here’s a look at a few of the developments.
One of the latest inventions to emerge from Xerox is erasable paper. Scientists developed this technology using compounds that change colors when they absorb a certain wavelength of light. As a result, the paper self-erases in about 16 to 24 hours and can be reused many times.
The paper can also be erased immediately if necessary, says Dr. Paul Smith, manager of Xerox Research Centre of Canada’s new materials design and synthesis lab. If you make a mistake, just feed the paper back through the printer, which erases the text and then prints the next version.
Major printer manufacturers have launched aggressive return and recycle programs for consumables. For example, users of Brother printers can print postage-paid labels online, and Epson provides postage-paid recycled containers that can hold up to 30 laser toner cartridges.
HP’s ink-jet cartridge recycling process uses post-consumer recycled plastics in the production of new cartridges. Thus far, more than 200 million cartridges have been manufactured with this new engineering process, which uses more than 5 million pounds of recycled plastics per year.
Lexmark converts its recycled cartridges into a wood-like product called eLumber through a partnership with recycler Close the Loop. The two companies donate some of that lumber to Habitat for Humanity.
Xerox offers Phaser 8560, 8560MFP, 8860 and 8860MFP printers that use solid-ink technology instead of powdered toner. The printer creates color images by heating ink sticks and applying the colors to a drum inside the printer, which then transfers the image onto the page. It’s safe, toxin-free and recyclable.
Solid-ink printing produces 90 percent less waste than laser printing, with only one consumable item, compared with the multiple consumables used by color laser printers, explains Donna Covannon, vice president of market development at Xerox. After 192,000 prints, a color laser produces about 450 pounds of waste; the solid-ink printer produces only 23 pounds.
Hewlett-Packard’s DeskJet D2545 printer relies heavily on recycled materials, notes Michelle Price, manager of worldwide environmental strategic marketing at HP. Recycled plastics account for 83 percent of the printer’s total plastic weight, and it uses ink cartridges molded from recycled plastic resins. The printer is also Energy Star-certified and comes in 100 percent recyclable packaging.
Paper is ubiquitous. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets per year, according to the Federal Network for Sustainability. If you’re looking to go green, “printing on recycled paper, reusing it and recycling it is a good place to start,” recommends Doug Washburn, infrastructure and operations analyst at Forrester Research.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin wood conserves 17 to 31 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity. “The federal government is now required to purchase paper with 30 percent [post-consumer recycled] fibers,” Washburn says.