Headline article in Recycling International September 2011 by Martin Summons
Despite the claimed pursuit of recycling being a byword across contemporary society and industry worldwide, the consumption of imaging consumables - inkjet and toner cartridges, toner bottles, fuser and drum units, toner waste hoppers and technicians' waste - continues to outstrip the recycling of them by an enormous margin. This article explains how one firm, Australia-based Close the Loop Ltd, tackles this particular recycling challenge and how its ambitions extend well beyond its country of origin.
Whereas Europe is currently in surplus with regard to recycled toner and ink cartridges in the remanufacturing sector, the USA, China and Australia are in deficit. And that means hundreds of millions of used original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cartridges continue to find their way into landfill. Consider these figures: of the 1.6 billion OEM cartridges sold annually and consumed globally, the USA sells 550 million, Europe 350-400 million and Australia 35 million, with the rest of the world making up the balance. Only 25% of this total is remanufactured, leaving 1.2 billion OEM products available for recycling - and yet less than 30% of this sub-total of e-waste is collected and recycled outside the remanufacturing system.
But things are changing: cartridge recycling is increasingly 'on- radar' for OEMs worldwide because of the draft global standard from the US-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) known as EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). This imaging equipment procurement standard confirms that pressure is being - and will continue to be - placed on OEMs as to how they manage end-of-life imaging consumables that bear their all-important brand names.
In order to qualify under the US-developed standard, EPEAT demands that OEMs must provide a used product take-back programme and, additionally, not make cartridges that cannot be remanufactured or recycled. OEMs must also make their printers capable of using remanufactured cartridges. EPEAT's focus is on re-use and on placing the onus squarely on OEMs to recycle.
Closing the loop
Among those keenly watching the progress of EPEAT is Greg Turnidge, Managing Director of Australia-based Close the Loop Ltd (CtL), a materials recovery company with established operations in both Australia and North America that fairly lays claim to a zero waste-to landfill reputation. CtL ranks among the few companies that collect and recycle cartridges for resource recovery. It also has a highly-developed post-consumer recyclables data tracking storage and retrieval system that provides an auditable e-waste trail.
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