Responsible Purchasing Network

Toner Cartridges: Overview

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Welcome to the Responsible Purchasing Guide for Toner Cartridges. This Guide provides information and recommendations on responsible use, purchasing, and disposal of toner cartridges for laser printers, copiers, and fax machines.

Remanufactured toner and ink jet cartridges (remans) reduce waste, save natural resources, and cut costs by reusing empty cores and parts rather than disposing single-use products from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Remanufactured cartridges are available for laser monochrome and color as well as ink jets. Monochrome laser remans are the most applicable for wide-spread adoption by institutional purchasers and are the focus of this Guide.

Each year, over 350 million toner cartridges go to landfills and incinerators in the United States. A typical OEM toner cartridge consumes 5 to 9 pounds of virgin material in the production process and is composed of 40% plastic and 40% metal. Remans reuse this plastic and metal and save other materials and energy needed to produce a comparable OEM cartridge. Cartridge remanufacturers in the United States reuse over 35 thousand tons of plastic and save over 400,000 barrels of oil each year. Since cartridges may be remanufactured more than once, resource intensity is reduced further with each additional remanufacture by extending the total life of the unit.

The cost of remans is conservatively estimated to be 30% to 60% less than new cartridges on a cost-per-copy basis. Remans are suitable for use in most printers, copiers and other machines using laser cartridges. Reman products offer equivalent quality, performance, and yield compared to OEM standards. During remanufacture, cartridges are disassembled and cleaned. Worn, defective, and high-usage parts are replaced. Units are refilled with toner, reassembled, tested for quality, and resold. Purchasers should specify the STMC testing protocol in order to guarantee product quality and performance.

There are an estimated 2,000 cartridge remanufacturers in the United States who produce over 27 million remans each year. Remans are available from most national office supply vendors as well as local vendors throughout the country. One simple way of switching is to ask suppliers to auto-substitute remans any time an order is placed for new cartridges and to train purchasers on the use of this auto-substitute feature. In addition to using remans, cartridges should be recycled at the end of their useful life. Sourcing from local remanufacturers and recyclers may provide additional environmental benefits and contribute to the local economy.

Compared to OEM cartridges, remanufactured toner cartridges reduce energy and resource intensity and limit waste, while offering immediate cost savings, comparable quality, and ready availability – a straightforward case of win-win for the environment and the bottom line.

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