When it comes to ethical tech and equipping your office there’s no doubt that an eco-friendly all-in-one machine is the superior choice both financially and ecologically. Instead of running a printer, copier, fax and scanner with all their subsequent maintenance costs, an all-in-one consumes far less energy, costs less to buy at the outset and is cheaper to run in the long term. With less raw materials and energy being employed to produce one machine instead of four, the environment is also better off.
A smart choice
Perhaps a little slower and not quite as precise as separate units, the all-in-one machine more than makes up for this by occupying less storage space, costing less and not being such a burden on the environment. For these reasons, it is an ideal choice for smaller businesses and home offices, especially where there are limited queues for the photocopier.
Laser or inkjet?
As with regular printers, all-in-ones can use either inkjet or laser technology. Laser printers work in a similar way to a photocopier and run at a lower overall cost per sheet. They require a drum and toner cartridge, both of which need intermittent replacing or refilling. When choosing a laser printer, ensure these two parts are housed separately as they run out at different times. If the drum is located inside the cartridge you won’t be able to replace or refill it individually, which will produce extra waste. Beware of consumable parts in colour laser printers – some can have up to nine in total.
Inkjets produce superior colour and photo quality prints to laser printers. They are far cheaper to buy too, but are much more expensive to maintain. The cartridges run out quickly and the glossy paper they need is far pricier. Whichever you choose, try to refill your empty toners and cartridges, rather than taking the more wasteful (and also more expensive) option of replacing them.
Nearly 45 million laser jet printer cartridges are sold every year in Europe and three quarters of them are used only once. It takes two litres of oil to make a typical laser printer cartridge plus aluminium and steel which release toxins and gas into the atmosphere when thrown into landfill. A cartridge can take several decades to decompose. With all this in mind the refilling option suddenly seems increasingly appealing. You can either do it yourself or send the cartridges away to be filled professionally. The other choice is to buy remanufactured cartridges which have been used, then cleaned and refilled. Remanufactured cartridges are available for most machines today.
In spite of the recent barrage of campaigns alerting us to the vast amount of energy consumed by electronic goods left on stand-by when not in use, people are still not switching off. Just as you wouldn’t leave the light on, make it a reflex to turn all machines off when you leave the office at the end of the day. This small gesture will have major consequences in the long run. Avoid printing unnecessarily and always use both sides of the paper. Thankfully email has rendered the fax machine almost archaic – so if you can live without faxes get an all-in-one without this facility, saving even more money and materials!
Electronic goods become obsolete, or appear to become obsolete, long before they really are. This is because technology is moving so fast in this sector. The importance of extending the life-span of IT equipment has been repeatedly highlighted by Greenpeace, which remains concerned about the amount of electronic waste that is dumped in countries such as China. Much of this waste comes from overseas, because it is cheaper for companies to send their waste abroad than deal with reusing and recycling at home.
The truth is that, for a normal user, an existing all-in-one with a printer, scanner, copier and fax should suffice for a number of years. When it is no longer good enough for your needs there’s certain to be someone else for whom it would be ideal. It’s possible to find these people through second-hand outlets or some of the schemes available for passing on electronic equipment, such as www.wasteonline.org.uk. You can also try your local freecycle group (www.uk.freecycle.org).
Ethical Comparison – All-In-Ones Rankings Detailed Table
Buy our detailed Ethical Research Reports. See the findings behind companies’ ethical ratings, as featured in The Good Shopping Guide. Several different product sectors available covering hundreds of consumer brands.
We have created ethical comparison rankings for the following tech brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Brother, Konica Minolta, Kyocera Mita, Lexmark, Ricoh, Olivetti, Epson
Sagemcom, Xerox, Panasonic, Canon, HP, Samsung
Did you find this research helpful? Please consider donating, and keep this website free.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning we earn commission if you click through and make a purchase. Placement and use of these links has no bearing in terms of the ethical scores that we give to a brand. All commission earned by The Good Shopping Guide is re-invested into the research carried out by The Ethical Company Organisation.