When it comes to the proper disposal of ink and media waste, today’s print service providers (PSPs) have options. Many manufacturers offer recycling and take-back programs for used and empty ink cartridges and toner. Approved methods of media disposal are also available.
Whether or not you take advantage of manufacturer programs, it is always a good idea to research city and state solid waste disposal requirements and recycling options.
Most digital sign shops do not generate a large amount of truly hazardous waste as defined by the U.S. EPA.
Marcia Y. Kinter, VP, government and business information, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA), recommends that shop operators contact equipment and ink vendors to see if a recycling program has been instituted. Several manufacturers develop and offer programs to encourage ink cartridge recycling.
INX Digital International, for example, introduced an ink cartridge recycling program in early 2013. “In North America, over 350 million ink cartridges end up in landfills every year,” shares Karla Witte, VP of product development, INX Digital. INX’s program accepts any empty Triangle brand or OEM wide format digital ink cartridges. A printer is required to return a minimum of 20 cartridges at a time. Free shipping is available if self packed and using a UPS tag that is generated through the INX Web site.
If there is no recycling program in place, before disposing of ink as solid waste, Kinter recommends the facility check with state regulations to determine if there are any recommended practices.
Recycling media waste depends on the type of media used. “Paperboard products can be easily recycled,” notes Kinter. “Plastics and vinyls can also be recycled, however, facility owners need to check with local recycling centers to determine specifications. National distributors of these medias often establish recycling programs and offer them to their customers. It is recommended that shop owners check with their distributor to see if one exists in their area.”
The alternative is that wasted media is disposed of as solid waste and sent to a landfill. The establishment of a recycling program not only reduces a facility’s environmental footprint, but also provides a strong return on investment through reduced overhead costs.
According to Jonathan Graham, environmental communications manager, WW, Graphics Solutions Business, Hewlett-Packard (HP), the majority of HP customers repurpose or recycle excess media and ink. To support HP Latex and Designjet customers, inkjet cartridges and other supplies are eligible for the HP Planet Partners program. For UV inks, Graham suggests printers handle disposal through local or statewide channels.
Take Advantage of “Take-Back” Programs
Take-back programs within the digital industry are often limited to ink cartridges and vary by manufacturer. “These programs also vary by type of ink, for example, solvent or UV curable. The mechanics of the programs differ as well, however, most programs require the printer to send the empty cartridges directly back to the manufacturer,” explains Kinter.
As the print industry becomes more eco-conscious, there is growing interest in programs like HP’s Planet Partners programs. Through HP’s closed-loop recycling process, original HP ink and LaserJet toner cartridges are reduced to raw materials that are then used to make new cartridges as well as other metal and plastic products. From 2010 to 2012, HP shipped 600 million inkjet cartridges containing recycled plastic through the HP Planet Partners program.
“While media manufacturers do not operate take-back programs, several do offer end-of-life options to encourage both printers and customers to reduce, reuse, and recycle,” adds Kinter. “Many media suppliers help facilities establish recycling programs, which again, reduce overhead costs.”
The cost associated with programs is subject to individual printers and their waste management services. “Solvent inks can be sold or given away and many waste facilities dispose UV-curable inks, so it is not cost prohibitive,” states Witte. “PSPs should check local regulations and see what is available to them.” The costs for solid waste removal vary by municipality as well as by vendor.
“If facilities are able to institute a strong recycling program for the aforementioned items, then the costs to remove sign shop waste decreases dramatically, providing a strong economic incentive,” adds Kinter.
Resources at Your Disposal
SGIA assists its members on how to start a recycling program, and Kinter points out that many state environmental agencies offer information on their Web pages about how to begin, develop, and institutionalize recycling programs. These resources are often found under the heading of “pollution prevention” or “reduction of solid waste.”
The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) is a non-profit organization providing sustainability certification for the printing industry. Going through the SGP Certified Facility program helps with implementing waste disposal and gives a framework to reduce a company`s environmental footprint. Additionally, companies with “green” procurement policies recognize SGP certification as a significant demonstration of commitment to sustainability.
Less Waste, Smaller Footprint
Between the recycling programs offered by manufacturers and resources provided by industry associations and organizations, sign shops take a more responsible approach to media and ink disposal methods.
As the trend towards greener practices continues, many customers seek shops that run a more sustainable business. Proper disposal of ink and media is one way to leave a smaller carbon footprint and appeal to more customers.