While we are increasingly aware of the colossal (and avoidable) paper wastage that goes on in offices, it is almost impossible to create a paper-free environment. A few strict rules can help keep paper use to a minimum while a careful choice of brand and model ensures that we support those manufacturers who do most to promote good labour practices. Purchasing printers with the smallest number of consumable parts and recycling cartridges can also make a big difference.
Ethical tech and the green office
With a little common sense and a lot of encouragement, every office can become a more environmentally friendly place to work in. From the smallest gestures, such as using both sides of the paper to print on, to the more financially weighty ones, e.g. investing in an ecologically conscious printer, it all makes a difference. When it comes to choosing ethical, eco-friendly printers, look for one with a recognised ecolabel, such as Nordic Swan, Blue Angel or Eco Mark which require that the companies meet certain standards concerning the emissions, ecology and energy.
The companies in this section are subject to many manufacturing regulations, which mean that their production processes demonstrate admirable environmental concern. However, the impact of printers comes mostly from their use and disposal. To save energy, support those machines that meet the Energy Star and other energy efficient standards. Products from Brother have set the standard for environmentally friendly printers, and the company receives a high ethical ranking within our research.
Of the million tonnes of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) that is thrown away on the UK every year, 39% is IT equipment. With these products made from a wide range of materials waste management is particularly difficult… in other words discarded computer hardware is an environmental health hazard just waiting explode.
While it’s possible to upgrade certain appliances, which saves purchasing replacements, there comes a time when this option is no longer viable and it is vital that machines are correctly and safely disposed of. To find the companies who can collect and dispose of electrical waste nearest you, visit www.wasteonline.org.uk. There is also the possibility of donating your unwanted equipment to local charities and schools or even having them exported to developing countries (try www.donateapc.org.uk).
Cartridges and consumables
Printers use either inkjet or laser technology, and both have their advantages and disadvantages (see the section on All-in-ones for more information). Of particular concern is the number of consumable parts contained in many colour laser printers, which can almost reach double figures in some cases. All require a drum and toner cartridge that will almost certainly need to be replaced or refilled at some point, but using printers with a separate cartridge for each allows the parts to be replaced independently, saving on unnecessary waste.
In 2003, only 30 to 40 per cent of the 40 million inkjet and toner cartridges sold in the UK were remanufactured or recycled. 12,000 to 14,000 tonnes ended up in landfills. In recent years however some printer manufacturers have started take-back schemes which enable customers to send back empty toner or ink cartridges and other spent parts free of charge. Recycling and refilling old cartridges reduces the amount of waste created, and there are several companies and charities that can do this for you. Check out www.cartridgeworld.org, which supplies refills and buys used cartridges. For a generally more environmentally-friendly printer, look for long-life drums, refill the ink and toner cartridges, and change ozone filters where applicable. For a more environmentally friendly consumption of ink, print in ‘draft’ mode as often as possible. Print in black and white instead of colour, this uses less ink and is cheaper. If you have a lot to print, try printing two sheets to a side in landscape format.
With cheap labour being exploited for mass computer hardware production, there are few sound labour practices in the industry. CAFOD the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development runs a campaign for pressuring multinational computer manufacturers to adhere to recognised standards. Choose brands with high scores in ‘People’ section of the table below.
Ethical Comparison – Printers 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 brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Brother, Konica Minolta, Kyocera Mita, Lexmark, Ricoh, Olivetti, Epson, Dell, Xerox, Canon, HP, Samsung
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