Term Paper: Lca of Printer Cartridges Life

Pages: 9 (2760 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 9  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Transportation and electricity use play a key role in the life cycle analysis. Electricity use begins with the extraction of raw materials from the earth. Processing of those materials used further electricity. Production of the final product also uses electricity. Transportation plays a key role in the life cycle analysis of printer cartridges. Electricity is used when the product reaches the consumer. Every time the consumer uses the printer cartridge they also use electricity. There is also electricity in transportation involved in the final disposal of the product. If the cartridge is recycled, then the recycling process also takes electricity and requires more transportation. Transportation varies from maker to maker and for different destination points.

For the purposes of this study, it would be difficult to measure the impact of electricity and transportation in order to devise a standardized impact statement. Electricity and transportation usage vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer, and among different product lines as well. For the purchases of this study, it is recognized that transportation and electricity affect the environmental impact of the product, but they cannot be measured in a meaningful way for the purposes of the study. In order to perform an assessment such as would be needed to assess the environmental impact of printer cartridges on electricity and transportation, one would have to address a specific brand and a specific model in order to perform an accurate assessment.

Transportation only electricity are major components of the impact assessment, but they could not be measured in a meaningful way for the purposes of this study. Companies are taking dramatic measures to reduce post consumer waste. This has significantly reduced the carbon signature of many printer cartridges. Whether new or remanufactured cartridges have the lowest impact on the environment depends on several factors. Transportation and electricity are key components of this equation.

Printer cartridges contain many chemicals that are made with processes that are harmful or dangerous to the environment. They must be produced in chemical factories that are major environmental hazards. They contribute to air pollution, water pollution, electricity consumption, and landfill volume. In this study, only a few examples of the various chemicals used in the manufacture of print cartridges were explored. There are many others that are used depending on the formula and trade secrets of the individual company.

Improvement Analysis

In 1994, Hewlett Packard undertook an extensive life cycle analysis project that included information from all of its primary suppliers. This was one of the first studies conducted of this type. Hewlett-Packard began deploying this assessment procedure at all of its manufacturing facilities, setting the standard for life cycle analysis of other electronics in printer cartridges (Pollock & Coulon, 1996). A study conducted by Lexmark found that recycling a used toner cartridge has the effect of reducing the overall carbon footprint of that cartridge by up to 60% (Lexmark, 2010).

The studies demonstrate that printer cartridge manufacturers and other businesses who use them are taking into consideration the impact of their actions in their products on the environment. As result of these studies, Hewlett-Packard has been a leader in introducing measures to help reduce the carbon footprint of their products. For instance, Hewlett-Packard no longer uses supplies and packaging that are produced using ozone depleting substances. Hewlett-Packard polices their suppliers to make certain that they do not use hazardous materials in a manner or amount that is above the allowable limits (Hewlett-Packard development company, LP. 2010).

Hewlett-Packard also increase the average number of pages printed per cartridge by nearly 139%. This meant that the cartridges would have to be replaced less often and would have a lower impact on the environment. They began using up to 30% post consumer recycled content in their packaging materials. They also replaced the polystyrene cartridge and with one made of molded pulp that is 100% post consumer recycled (Hewlett-Packard development company, LP. 2010).

These are just a few examples of the steps that Hewlett Packard has taken to reduce the carbon footprint of their laser print cartridges. In a study conducted by Hewlett Packard, it was found that their printer cartridges had a lower carbon footprint than remanufactured ones. However, not all printer cartridge companies have taken such drastic measures to reduce the carbon footprint in their original products. The question of whether remanufactured printer cartridges have a lower or higher carbon footprint than purchasing new ones depends on the company and how seriously they have taken the need to reduce their carbon footprint.

Some companies are beginning to switch too and incorporate alternative energy sources. This will result in a major improvement un the environmental impact of the life cycle of the printer cartridge. There many areas where small improvements could be made such as in the area of electricity and transportation along many junctures of the life cycle. Even though these are small changes when one talks about the functional unit of the printer cartridge as defined in this study, all of the small changes add up when the volume printer cartridges increases.

Packaging is another area where improvements could be made in the life cycle of the printer cartridge. If manufacturers begin to use recycled, pressed paper products in areas where they formerly used plastic, this would be a key reduction in the environmental impact of the printer cartridge. Currently new biodegradable packaging products are being developed that are made from soybeans. Switching to biodegradable packaging where possible would help to reduce post consumer waste. Post consumer waste is a key component of environmental damage caused by printer cartridges.

There been many criticisms of the remanufacturing process for printer cartridges. There are some who claim this is necessary for the reduction of the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts. However, there are also those who argue that the additional electricity and transportation required for the remanufacturing process makes the carbon footprint for remanufactured cartridges even higher than throwing them away. At this point there is too little information to make a determination of what is better in every case. Another consideration in the final analysis of printer cartridges and their environmental impact is wholesale packaging that will reduce transportation costs. These measures will result in simple changes that will add up if the industry does them in aggregate.


Ahmadi, A.Williamson, B., & Theis, T. et al. (2003). Life-Cycle Inventory of Toner Produced for Xerographic Processes. Journal of Cleaner Production. 11: 573-582.

Bousquin, J., Esterman, M. & Rothenberg, S. (2011). Life Cycle Analysis in the Printing Industry: A Review. Printing Industry Center at RIT. Roche, New York.

Bozeman, M., DeYoung, V., & Laitko, W. et al. (2010). Life Cycle Assessment of a Solid Ink Printer Compared with a Color Laser Printer: Total Lifetime Energy Investment and Global Warming Impact. Xerox. September 2010.

First Environment, Inc. (2004). LaserJet cartridge environment comparison: a life cycle study of the HP 96 A print cartridge vs. Its remanufactured counterpart in the United Kingdom. Project No. HPCKA002. October 2004.

Four Elements Consulting, LLC. (2008). "LaserJet Cartridge Life Cycle Environmental Impact Comparison Refresh Study." Hewlett-Packard Company. September 2008.

Hewlett-Packard Development Company, LP. (2010). "Product Design for Printing Supplies." Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/products/print-supplies-design.html

Lexmark. (2010). Lexmark LCA Cartridge Study Demonstrates Benefit Of Responsible Printing Behaviors. Press Release. April 22, 2010. Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://newsroom.lexmark.com/index.php?s=13630&item=23838

Ord, J. & DiCorcia, T. (2005). Life Cycle Inventory for an Inkjet Printer.ME 589 EcoDesign and Manufacturing. University of Michigan. December 21, 2005.

Pollock, D. & Coulon, R. (1996). Life cycle assessment:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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