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5 Ways Printing Can Create It's Own Circular Economy
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With sustainability becoming an evergreen concern for virtually all modern industries, there have been growing calls for printer manufacturers, retailers like us, and even printer consumers to produce and consume sustainably by following the values of a circular economy. Although we like to consider ourselves champions of our own circular economy here at CartridgesDirect by offering printer cartridge recycling amongst other eco-friendly schemes, there’s no denying that there are still many other ways the print industry and its consumer base as a whole can improve on collective efforts to ‘close the loop’.

But what is a circular economy? And how exactly can you play your part in this new consumer model, both as a printer user and perhaps even as a business owner? Today, we’ll be outlining 5 ways that the print industry and all its consumers can create a circular economy that’s sure to hold a positive impact on both a local and global scale.

What is a circular economy?

Before we dive into the best methods for cultivating a circular economy, let’s start with a little definition of the term. A circular economy is any economic system that refuses to rely on the unconscious consumption of finite resources. In the simplest terms, circular economies are centred upon trying to retain as much of the resources used in the manufacturing process as possible once manufactured goods reach their end of life.

Businesses who set up circular economies make an effort to retain depleted products wherever they can to ensure that the products are disposed of and reused ethically, in order to limit reusable materials being sent to landfills. This is why our team at CartridgesDirect have made a vow to only stock recyclable compatible printer cartridges alongside manufacturer-produced cartridges in our online store, ensuring that all of our printer ink cartridges are fully recyclable and thus, eligible to participate in our own circular economy.

Now onto how you can join our own circular economy within the printing industry.

1. Recycle printer cartridges and printer components

Let’s start with recycling printer cartridges and other resources used by the manufacturers across the industry. There are a large variety of metals and plastic materials used to produce printers and printer cartridges that can easily be returned to factory lines for a range of industries and fabrication projects.

Old printers are classified as recyclable e-waste, which means that consumers can drop their printers off along with any other outdated technological goods at e-waste collection points. Collected e-waste is then processed to be shredded down into raw materials that can then be reused to produce either more consumer goods or even civil infrastructure like fences, cables, and sometimes even roadways.

Consciously disposing of e-waste is a responsibility that all Australian homes and businesses must bear, as e-waste cannot be placed in our roadside rubbish bins. Instead, e-waste must be disposed of at e-waste collection points in order to be recycled by dedicated processing plants across Australia. If you’re uncertain about where your nearest e-waste collection point is, you can either check Recycling Near You’s online recycling directory or head to your local council website, as they may have their own resources on recycling electronic goods.

It’s important to note, however, that not all e-waste is disposed of in the same way. For example, batteries are always recycled to produce more batteries, because their components are incredibly specific to the production of this particular consumer good. Similarly, printer cartridges are made up of a number of intricate parts and specific materials like manganese, silicon, chromium, zinc, and in some cases even traces of gold and palladium. In order to best retrieve these rare metals and other materials, printer cartridges are best recycled within dedicated cartridge recycling programmes. That’s precisely why CartridgesDirect offers all of our customers the opportunity to participate in our own circular economy by recycling their printer cartridges at no extra cost. This can be done by simply mailing their depleted cartridges back to our HQ with the mailing bags we provide with each and every order placed through our online store.

2. Boost energy efficiency of future printer models

Printers of the past have been power guzzlers, to say the very least. Most of us may not even have to think too far back to remember those awful whirring and churning sounds that the printers of yesteryear used to make in order to print even the most simple monochromatic print jobs.

You’ll be happy to know that printer manufacturers over the past two decades, have definitely been aware their products could do with a little streamlining, both for boosting print speeds as well as energy efficiency. And after years of development and slow yet steady innovations, printer manufacturers have been able to produce ‘eco-friendly’ printers that deliver greener results on a number of fronts, one of which includes reduced energy consumption during operations as well as during standby mode.

It’s also common practice for printer manufacturers to include figures like print machine volume (in decibels) as well as energy usage estimates for printer models in the specifications that accompany product descriptions online or on product boxes. With all this information at your fingertips, modern consumers can go about choosing a printer model that doesn’t just suit them in terms of its performance, but also for its environmental impacts.

By opting for printers with lower energy consumption rates, consumers can help steer the printing industry towards consistently considering energy usage when producing future printer models. Lower carbon emissions allows the printing industry as well as its consumers to take one step closer to closing the loop, and thus achieving a perfect circular economy. All we need to close the loop entirely with regards to energy efficiency is to use renewable energy in both the production of printers as well as for powering home printers.

3. Reduce ink consumption per print job

Another element behind eco-friendly printing that you may be more familiar with is increasing page yields for printer cartridges. High yield printer ink cartridges naturally last longer as they can produce a higher number of printed pages. What this means is that consumers won’t have to go through as many cartridges as they may have used in the past, both saving them money as well as saving the industry from having to produce as many cartridges.

On a similar note, less cartridges being used and purchased has also drastically reduced the likelihood of cartridges ending up in landfills. In other words, reductions in the manufacturing of printer cartridges places printer manufacturers and consumers alike in a better position to help cultivate a sustainably circular economy and firmly close the production loop.

That being said, there are still a disproportionate amount of printer cartridges finding their way to rubbish tips, causing all their precious components to be thoroughly wasted. At CartridgesDirect, we believe the key to combating this ongoing problem of irresponsible cartridge disposal is education, which is why our blog is filled with sustainability resources, including a collection of sustainable printing tips as well as more information about our printer cartridge recycling scheme. After all, education and exposure to sustainable practices is the first step to actually adopting those practices themselves.

4. Embrace cloud printing and companion apps

There is a growing trend amongst modern printer manufacturers to invest in wireless printing capabilities and by extension, mobile companion apps and cloud printing tools and technologies. The benefits of cloud printing are numerous and have been discussed in our blog before, with some of the feature’s major selling points including the removal of print queues as a concept in office spaces, as well as reduced demand for printer cables or additional office printers strewn across departments, reducing overhead costs for companies across the globe. Cloud printing tools effectively allow printers to be used faster and more efficiently, and by a larger number of users to boot.

On the other side of the wireless printing coin lies printer apps like HP’s Smart App, Canon Pixma, and other mobile companion apps designed to enhance the capabilities of wireless printer models. Alongside providing additional cloud printing capabilities as well as equipping printer users with additional services like scheduling replacement cartridge purchases, mobile printer apps may even play a role in decreasing print frequency amongst some printer users.

The reason for this is that some printer apps come fitted with mobile scanning, allowing printer users to produce high-quality scans of digital documents saved right to their mobile devices. These scans can then be sent via email on mobile devices, again eradicating the need for connecting devices up to printers using IT cables as well as the need for physical copies to be produced and manually distributed.

Opting for digital document-reading and sharing wherever possible through the use of cloud printing technology has also been made possible with the support of IoT tech like mobiles and tablets, as well as digital whiteboards for viewing documents in larger meeting settings. Simply put, investing in digital technologies has greatly improved manufacturer products and consumer experiences for printer users alongside holding a monumental role in supporting the development of a circular economy for the printing industry.

5. Utilise 3D printing for fabrication and repairing

The potential for 3D printing to revolutionise the manufacturing industry is another topic we’ve discussed on our blog before, namely in our overview on the future of printing. The precision and low-cost operations that drive 3D printing make this particular technology a highly effective alternative to traditional forms of manufacturing and fabrication. With this in mind, many manufacturers across the globe are swapping out traditional costly single-function fabrication machinery for highly agile and adaptable 3D printing technologies.

3D printing technology has also demonstrated a high potential for driving small businesses as well. It’s becoming a common practice for many 3D printer users to sell 3D printed goods online as a means of making back some of the funds they spent on purchasing their printing machine. Nowadays, consumers can find items like keychains, cable organisers, pen cups, surgical mask extenders, and even specific components like buttons or screws online that have been produced using 3D printing technologies.

On top of this, 3D printing technologies have also played a monumental role in recent years with regards to extending the usable lifespan of a range of consumer goods. For instance, 3D printing buttons can allow a particular garment to be worn for longer. Similar logic applies to 3D printers being used to patch up holes in items like hoses, watering cans, vases, and other items that would otherwise have been thrown out.

This consumer shift from buying new to repairing existing items is foundational to practicing sustainable consumption. Printer manufacturers have kept this principle in mind during the development of future printing technologies, including 3D printing tools. With this consideration, it’s highly likely that future 3D printing machines will boast more impressive fabrication capabilities to suit both manufacturers and independent makers alike.

Printing & Circular Economy Roundup

In truth, cultivating a strong circular economy involves so much more than the methods we’ve outlined above. Circular economies are holistic in nature, which means that they can only work if the ‘whole system’ involved within that economic cycle is on board and on the same page.

There are also additional measures we haven’t outlined today that could very easily come into effect in the future, including printer leasing services so that printer manufacturers can retain ownership of outdated printers rather than risk consumers sending printers directly to landfill. Alongside this, printer consumers can easily make the decision to go entirely paperless, or at least as paperless as their lifestyle and professional practices will allow.

Want to know how you can contribute to our own circular economy here at CartridgesDirect? Read more about sustainable printing here on our blog, or contact one of our friendly printing enthusiasts today to find out more about our printer recycling programme and our work with HP Planet Partners.

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