Environment

The Environmental Impact of Printer Use

Preserving the environment is one subject many empathise with but could not put into clear action. We understand what’s at stake, but there’s a disconnect between our everyday existence and what’s actually happening out there. The issue is too “grand” and global that it barely sinks into our here-and-now consciousness.

The truth of the matter is that human lifestyle affects the environment and, more often than not, in a destructive way. Although you can devise strategies to prevent carbon emissions and campaign for awareness in ways even an ordinary person can understand, it is important to relay the right information and the right message to everyone.

Harmful Effects of Print Technology

How printing affects the environment is an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Every printer buyer or user should understand which decisions are helpful and which ones are not. Pursuing cheaper alternatives, for instance, means you do not have to buy ink cartridges all the time and contribute to the growing problem of catridge waste disposal.

“But does printing really affect the environment?” asks the skeptic. How exactly can one printout harm the rest of the world?

Hence, we break down the issues for your better understanding:

1. Printer Hardware

Unlike its consumable component, the only impact printer hardware can have on the environment is energy usage. While this may not be a huge concern for some, it is still important to practice energy conservation. For instance, turn on your printer only when you need it to ensure it is energy efficient. Run cleaning cycles on a regular basis to fix issues and prevent frequent jams (which tend to waste paper).

Once your printer hits the end of its lifespan, disposal can be a big problem. Therein lies the real environmental issue. There is a specific way of handling electronic waste but not everyone knows – or cares to know – this. Most people dispose of their appliances and gadgets in the same way they dispose of ordinary rubbish. As a result of such improper disposal, the environment suffers.

2. Ink and Toner Cartridges

You may have heard that printer inks and toners contain toxic chemicals. There is some truth to this information but only if you deliberately or accidentally ingest ink or toner particles (which is hardly likely).

Ink and toners do contain chemicals and elements that are harmful to the environment. Petroleum oil, polymer (found in plastics), carbon and disease-inducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to name a few. That is why it is not a good idea to just chuck out an old cartridge. Think about the residue. Printer drivers may tell you your catridge is empty but that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no ink left.

Remember that plastics take a thousand years to decompose and their presence on the earth’s soil will only add to the problem. Carbon emission is a known cause of ozone depletion, while VOCs and heavy metals cause lung and skin diseases and, if disposed of irresponsibly in large quantities, can pollute bodies of water.

In a bid to reduce the ill effects of ink on the environment, manufacturers now use vegetable oil, particularly soy, and plant-based alternatives in lieu of petroleum and plastic.

3. Paper Production Waste 

So much paper has been wasted since the last decade. One country accounts for more than 12,000 tonnes of waste paper. Nowadays, it’s easy to discard documents and print with abandon – even text and image documents we don’t really need.

We discard memos, we don’t recycle misprints and we ignore paper that falls off the ground. Because paper is so abundant, everyone tends to neglect its effects on the environment.

Humanity’s excessive demand for more paper has contributed to more deforestation activities. If not for advocacy groups and non-profit organisations, more trees would have been wasted as well. But the efforts of these groups have somehow curtailed deforestation, while everyone else reflects on their paper usage habits.

Responsible Printing

The point of this article is not to discourage individuals from using printers or stop printing activities. However, everyone is encouraged to adopt responsible printing practices and think about the consequences of their actions. In this way, you’re doing your part to save the environment – even for a bit.

For the time being, get started on eco-friendly printing activities such as joining your manufacturer’s cartridge recycling program. Pursue cheaper and less harmful alternatives such as ink refills or sending your old printer cartridges to nearby service centres. You may want to note that remanufactured ink cartridges actually save the environment from excessive cartridge waste.

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I'm a tech blogger specialising in print technology, toners, ink cartridges and printer maintenance. Currently working with Hottoner for different printer models like HP Photosmart 5520, Canon MG5660, Epson XP-200, HP Officejet Pro 8600 and more.

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