Author: Ryan Collins
The ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program is celebrating its biggest year since it began 15 years ago. In total, over 3.5 million cartridges were returned for recycling or remanufacture. So what does this achievement mean? What makes the program such a success? And what new recycled product is being made from printer cartridges?
Over the last 12 months, Australians have made history by recycling a record 13,500 used printer cartridges every working day, making it the biggest year ever since the launch of the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program. This is equivalent to 386 bathtubs of cartridges returned every working day or 6 backyard swimming pools every week! The 3.5 million cartridges collected in the last year are enough to produce around 4,500 pens or 168,000 rulers made from the recycled materials. So a big THANK YOU!
A key factor in this success is the industry’s willingness to participate in this voluntary product stewardship scheme, which ensures the environmental impact of their products is responsibly managed at the end of their useful life. Collectively the participating cartridge manufacturers Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera have helped Australians divert 34 million cartridges from landfill, which is equivalent to over 14,500 tonnes of materials, since the program began in 2003.
Printer cartridges can take between 450 and 1,000 years to break down in landfill, and e-waste is the fastest-growing form of waste. Rapid innovation, decrease in product lifespan and declining prices of both electronics and raw materials have led to more and more items being discarded. So it’s vital, for the environment and a viable manufacturing industry, that the concept of a closed loop production cycle is embraced.
Innovation in this area is continuing, with the recent launch of a new product, Tonerseal™, a world-first spray seal binder for roads which contains over 20% recycled waste toner and used tyre rubber. To date, enough Australian roads have been surfaced with TonerPave™ or Tonerseal™ to reach all the way from Melbourne to Sydney. Recently Australia Zoo also chose to lay 250 tonnes of TonerPave™ as part of a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.
Manufacturers are also implementing a range of other changes to their cartridges and equipment to reduce waste. These include using recycled plastic in their production, adding extra-large print tanks to extend their life and developing technology to monitor and balance usage across all colours. Changes to toner chemistry also allow for quality printing with lower energy use.
Ryan is the Recycling Programs Manager at Planet Ark. After nearly a decade working in the banking and finance industry Ryan was drawn to a career in environmental conservation that saw him work in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji. With a background in psychology and environmental management, Ryan’s role at Planet Ark since 2012 has been focused on developing engaging and positive environmental behaviour change programs to help everyone recycle and reduce waste.