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Its Not Easy Being Green

From the Printware Blog on Thursday 8th October 2009 in Environment

Britons are the worst in Europe when it comes to recycling electrical items, according to a recent study. Less than half of Brits regularly recycle old hardware, compared with over 80% of Germans. Worryingly, up to 10% of households are risking prosecution by disposing of hardware with their household waste. This is despite legislation introduced in 2007, aimed at encouraging the re-use and recycling of electrical equipment (The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, or WEEE, Directive).

Many consumers are unaware of the legislation, with 72% saying that they have never heard of the WEEE Directive. Furthermore, there is little understanding of the options available for recycling; most people don’t know that they can recycle their equipment at no cost or donate it to charity. 70% of people still don’t recycle toner cartridges, claiming they are unaware that this is possible.

The challenge for manufacturers is to raise awareness amongst consumers, as 75% say they would be happy to recycle their old hardware if they knew where they could take or send it.

So, how can you recycle your old toner cartridges and hardware? Recycling toners is fairly straightforward as all the printer manufacturers will recycle their own toners. Generally, when you buy a new toner, you can send the old one back in the same packaging at no cost. Some manufacturers will include a return label with the toner cartridge while others will allow you to print one from their website. The exact procedure varies but is fairly straightforward, regardless of the brand of printer and all the manufacturers have a section for consumable recycling on their website (see below for links).

Although the printer manufacturers will recycle their own products, Printware will recycle cartridges from anyone. We can supply you with a cardboard bin which you fill up with your empty cartridges - once it’s full, call the number on the side of the bin; we’ll take the cartridges away for recycling and replace the bin with an empty one.

Recycling old hardware is perhaps slightly more complicated; retailers are obliged either to participate in the Distributor Takeback Scheme or to contribute financially to a fund which pays local authorities to upgrade designated collection facilities. Private householders can return their electrical goods to retailers who offer a takeback scheme, or the retailer can offer an alternative collection arrangement that is convenient for customers. Retailers who opt out of the takeback scheme are not obliged to offer these services but will direct consumers to their nearest designated collection facility; Printware falls into this second category.

If you are buying a new printer, you may be able to trade in your old device which means that you can save some money against your new purchase and arrange for your old printer to be collected. This only applies for equipment that is still working and can therefore be re-sold; if the device is no longer working and needs to be recycled, several manufacturers offer a takeback scheme. HP and Xerox will trade in working printers against the purchase of a new device (please be aware that if you take advantage of the Xerox scheme you will not be able to claim any other offers against the same purchase) while HP, Lexmark and Dell operate takeback schemes. With the exception of Dell, these takeback schemes apply only to businesses; home users are directed to recycle their old equipment at the nearest WEEE approved facility. Dell will collect any brand of unwanted computer equipment (including printers) from your home and either recycle it or, if you choose, donate it to charity.

As our impact on the environment becomes more of a concern for businesses and individuals alike, the issue of hardware and consumable recycling is now a much greater consideration when we are making purchasing decisions. We fully expect the manufacturers who are trailing behind in this respect to start catching up. The greatest challenge is not simply to implement recycling programmes but to make businesses and home users aware of how they can access these programmes and make full use of them. Printware welcomes feedback from any manufacturers who are making it easier for their customers to recycle unwanted products, especially hardware, and would like us to feature this on our site.

To make it easier for consumers to recycle or trade in their old cartridges or printers, we’ve researched a number of helpful websites (some were more helpful and easier to find than others):


by Anthony Morgan

Posted in Environment

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