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Printing Sustainability

4 Tips for Eco-Friendly Printing

Did you know that 350 million ink and laser cartridges go to landfills every year? Introduce sustainable printing to your home, school, or business with these helpful tips that include recycling ink cartridges and making ink last longer.

You know that empty printer ink cartridges need to be replaced and disposed of. But did you know that most used inkjet and laser cartridges are not disposed of properly, and more than 350 million of them end up in landfills every year? Not only are ink cartridges made from petroleum-based plastic, but they also contain chemicals such as butylurea, cyclohexanone, and various dyes that can leak and contribute to contaminated groundwater. Ink cartridge materials generally do not break down in landfills, contributing significant waste to our environment.

With this in mind, it’s a smart idea to establish sustainable printing practices such as recycling cartridges, finding ways to make print ink last longer, and printing more sparingly where possible. Because so many printer cartridges are thrown away each day, any steps toward sustainable printing can divert ink cartridges away from landfills and help conserve natural resources and energy used to produce new cartridges.

Whether you’re printing out copies of personal documents in your home office or making copies of contracts in the workplace, sustainable printing is worth the investment. Here are four tips to bring eco-friendly printing to your home, school, or business.

1. Recycle Your Ink Cartridges

Recycling printer ink cartridges is a simple way to minimize waste and cut down on the number of ink cartridges found in landfills. About 97% of materials in ink cartridges can be recycled, and the appropriate printer cartridge recycling services will ensure that they are broken down, processed, and transformed into other useful products.

Luckily, there are simple ways you can recycle your ink cartridges and close the recycling loop. When identifying where to recycle ink cartridges, explore the following options:

  • Staples recycling programs: Staples offers ink and toner recycling, which is often the easiest way to recycle printer cartridges. Simply bring your used cartridges to any Staples store. Staples offers $2 in rewards for each recycled cartridge.
  • Manufacturer-led recycling programs: Most well-known printer manufacturers offer ink cartridge recycling programs free of charge for their customers. For example, HP offers customers the option to drop off their used ink cartridges at brick-and-mortar stores, mail them in, or arrange complimentary pickup services. Other popular manufacturers, including Canon, Brother, and Epson, offer similar recycling programs.
  • Mail-in recycling programs: Don’t have time to drop by a Staples store? Simply request a free shipping label to mail your cartridges into the Staples recycling program and enjoy a $2 reward. There are several other mail-in ink cartridge recycling programs that make it easy to prevent your cartridges from ending up in the dump.

2. Reduce Cartridge Use

If you’d like to get the longest life possible from your ink cartridges, there are two options worth trying: purchasing remanufactured cartridges and purchasing ink tank printers.

  • High-yield cartridges contain 150% to 200% or more of the ink or toner in a “standard” cartridge. While the initial cost is higher, the cost per page printed is significantly lower and this tactic also reduces the number of empty cartridges that need to be recycled and associated emissions with production, delivery, and packaging.
  • Remanufactured cartridges are made using cartridges that have gone through a rigorous qualification, refurbishment, and testing process using established specifications and standards to replace worn parts and refill the toner to meet the original manufacturer specifications. You can purchase remanufactured cartridges made for specific printer brands, ensuring they work as well as new cartridges. These cartridges help reduce environmental impacts by reusing raw materials and resources.
    • Purchasing high-yield remanufactured products provides additional benefits. Make sure the manufacturer adheres to industry best practices and stands behind the quality of their product to ensure you are getting the performance you expect.
  • Ink tank printers use refillable tank systems with bottled replacement ink. The replacement bottled ink is less expensive. These printer systems are more environmentally friendly than standard ink or toner cartridges because with the elimination of cartridges, less manufacturing is required.

3. Focus on Efficient Ink Usage

Even the smallest changes in ink usage can make it last longer. To use your ink as efficiently as possible, be thoughtful with the basic elements of your documents and apply sustainable graphic design and intentional typography.

  • Avoid excessive imagery: Adding too many photos and graphic elements to your printed documents uses considerably more ink than text alone. Avoid heavily colored and shaded graphics — especially those with lots of color.
  • Minimize boldface text: Bolded text has a heavier weight than normal text and thus requires more ink. If you need to emphasize certain words, try using italics instead, as these have a lighter weight than bold text.
  • Choose eco-friendly fonts: You can use less ink by choosing sans-serif fonts that are thinner and do not have embellishments. Using a smaller font size will consolidate space, use less ink, and prevent paper waste. It may be surprising to learn that some of the most popular fonts, such as Arial, are not very ink-efficient. The most well-known ink-saving fonts include:
    • Century Gothic
    • Times New Roman
    • Calibri
    • Garamond
  • Avoid “clone” cartridges: Clone cartridges do not go through the same rigorous validation and testing processes as original cartridges or high-quality remanufactured cartridges. These low-quality cartridges are often less expensive but result in poor printing, low page yields, and can create printer malfunctions. An HP study found that over 70% of these cartridges failed during use, generating tremendous waste. HP also found that these cartridges do not always meet the same standards for indoor air quality.

4. Only Print When Necessary

While some businesses have moved their operations online, other businesses can’t get around their need to print documents. Even if you can’t stop printing altogether, there are a few ways you can cut down on the frequency of your printing to save on paper and ink. Here are some ways to use these resources more sparingly without giving up your home or office printer.

  • Make company meetings paperless
  • Use digital documents whenever possible
  • Invest in dual monitors so you can quickly reference information without printing it
  • Use digital collaboration and note-taking tools
  • Post reminders near the printer, such as, “Please consider the environment and think before printing.” “This office uses X sheets of paper per day,” or, “Is this something you really need to print?” to deter unnecessary printing
  • Upgrade to an ink tank printer
  • Use the double-sided printing function
  • Implement print management software solutions

Bring Sustainable Printing to Your Home, School or Business

Ink and toner cartridges may be necessities but they have an impact on the environment that you can reduce through a variety of actions. It’s easy to implement sustainable printing practices to use less ink and limit the environmental impact of your printing.

About the Author

Staples is the world’s leading office products and solutions company, with 83,000 associates worldwide and offering more than 1 million products.


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