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Modern Printer Ink Cartridges And Biodegradeability

2012-01-31

Modern printer ink cartridges are not as yet considered biodegradable products. Despite buying very expensive ink cartridges, a customer cannot depend on it to be friendly toward the environment because it the metals and plastic that the printer ink cartridge is made of will remain intact in a landfill for thousands of years. Furthermore, most traditional printer ink that fills the cartridges are also petroleum based products that are not biodegradable and can transmit carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals like mercury and arsenic into the groundwater as it sits in a landfill. Fortunately for consumers, there have been advances in the printer ink industry that can help to avoid some of this environmental impact, such as the rise of remanufactured ink cartridges as an alternative to new expensive ink cartridges and soy and vegetable based ink as an alternative to traditional petroleum based ink.

Remanufactured printer ink cartridges are still unfortunately not biodegradable, but they do avoid putting those plastic and metal components into the landfill. To make a remanufactured ink cartridge, companies reuse old ink cartridges, refill them and provide new, full cartridges to customers. Even parts of old ones can be reassembled into new remanufactured cartridges to avoid biodegradability issues in the landfill, and over the last two decades, the quality has met and sometimes surpassed the brand name industry standards for quality. Consumers can then turn in their used remanufactured cartridges to be reused at printer cartridge recycling centers. These centers have become widespread in the last decade and can be found at most office supply stores.

Another great way to increase the biodegradability of printing is to choose more environmentally friendly ink that is contained inside the cartridge. Instead of the traditional petroleum based ink that is laden with heavy metals and VOCs, none of which is biodegradable, developing technologies have made soy and other vegetable based ink more available to use in printing. Commercial newspapers already use soy ink in color photos because of its vividness and the market is growing to make these natural inks more available to home and small business offices. These inks are derived from natural plant ingredients, a fact that makes them biodegradable. Although some still contain heavy metal additives, advances are making these inks more and safer to reduce environmental impact.

Although there is no way currently to biodegrade an ink cartridge, which is made from plastic and metal, a consumer can still find ways to bypass the landfill by using remanufactured printer ink cartridges. He or she can also choose soy or vegetable based inks, a great way to reduce toxicity and use ingredients that are biodegradable in the long run.

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