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Cartridge Recycling Programs in the U.S and Europe


Introduction

Tremendous amounts of printing supplies are used every day, and OEMs and 3rd party supplies vendors are vying to obtain those empty cartridges and divert empty OEM supplies from ending up in landfills. OEMs wish to recycle the materials to fulfill their environmental responsibilities, while 3rd party supplies companies need the cartridges for remanufacturing. Despite these efforts, many cartridges do wind up in landfills. Some cartridges meet this fate without ever having been remanufactured, while some are remanufactured once before going to a landfill.

Over the past several months, InfoTrends has spoken with leading OEMs and remanufacturers in the U.S and Western European supplies industry regarding their supplies collection and recycling programs. The results can be found in a new research report entitled, 2007 Supplies Recycling: U.S. and Europe. In addition to the interview information, the report includes end-user research on the attitudes and practices of consumers in relation to empty ink and toner cartridges.

Remanufacturers vs. OEMs

A significant amount of the cartridges collected by remanufacturers are disposed of due to damage or end of useful life, or because they are undesirable cartridges that have little or no value. The report contends that half of Europe’s laser cartridge remanufacturing waste is recycled, and 30% of inkjet cartridge remanufacturing waste is recycled or managed in some way. In addition, only about 10% of unusable laser cartridge waste is actually recycled by remanufacturers in the U.S., and almost no integrated inkjet cartridges are recycled.

Figure 1: Empty Inkjet and Toner Cartridge Disposal – European Businesses

OEMs and remanufacturers employ different methods and focus on different priorities when dealing with collected cartridges. While some OEMs do not offer collection schemes for inkjet cartridges, OEMs recycle the cartridges that they do collect. In contrast, while all cartridge remanufacturing companies surveyed expressed a desire to handle cartridges in the most environmentally sound manner, they also say it is often impractical due to cost and available recycling infrastructures. In some cases, remanufacturers’ cartridges and their components are burned or hauled away by waste management companies, but this practice varies to some extent depending on the country in question.

Important Study Findings

1.  80% of remanufactured toner cartridges and 86% of remanufactured inkjet cartridges are thrown away because remanufacturers have such a strong preference for cartridges that have not previously been remanufactured (aka “virgin empties”).

Figure 2: U.S. & Western European Remanufacturable Toner Cartridge Flows – Entire Industry

2.  Through remanufacturing, 3rd party supplies companies are able, on average, to reduce overall demand for new cartridges by about 20%.

3.  Remanufacturers surveyed generally were not aware of the details concerning the waste management service providers they utilized.

4. Transparent and public reporting of environmental performance was not available from several OEMs or any of the remanufacturers surveyed.

5.  Excess and damaged cartridges, as well as non-virgin cartridges, may be sold several times to successively lower-quality remanufacturers before being discarded.

6.  There are very few truly local remanufacturers; most local remanufacturers now outsource their products and no longer remanufacture directly.

7.  16% of toner cartridges and 34% of inkjet cartridges remanufacturers collect cannot be profitably remanufactured.

8.  3rd party supplies companies collect 70% more empty OEM toner cartridges and 700% more empty OEM inkjet cartridges than the OEMs themselves.

OEM and 3rd party supplies vendors both have compelling stories regarding how their efforts reduce the impact of supply cartridges on the environment.  At the same time, both groups can also be faulted for deficiencies in their programs. Overall, however, the imaging supplies industry can claim to be effectively reducing the impact of cartridges on the environment.

The preceding is an excerpt from InfoTrends’ reports entitled “2007 Supplies Recycling: U.S. and Europe”.  To learn more about the reports or to make a purchase, visit our online store or contact Nicole Shown at +1 781.616.2100 ext. 207 or nicole_shown@infotrends.com.

Copyright © 2007 InfoTrends. All rights reserved. Reproduction or reuse of InfoTrends materials is strictly prohibited without prior written consent. If you are interested in referencing InfoTrends’ content, please submit your request to allison_jones@infotrends.com.

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