HP gives new life to used printer cartridges

HP has a new process in place to recycle its used inkjet printer cartridges

Hewlett-Packard is boosting its effort to effectively recycle used inkjet printer cartridges, Wednesday introducing a new process that manufactures new cartridges from recycled cartridges that are separated and rebuilt from scratch.

The "closed loop" process gives used HP inkjet cartridges a sustainable end-of-life value and puts the material back to good use while being environmentally friendly, HP representatives said.

The process first breaks down plastic in printer cartridges made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), after which additives including fibers and resins are used to strengthen and regenerate the plastic. The remolded plastic is then used to manufacture new HP inkjet cartridges.

The plastics or cartridges are not melted, refilled, resold or sent to a landfill, HP said. The process also applies to other products, like PET water bottles, HP representatives said.

The process, which went into pilot in 2005, has already resulted in HP manufacturing 200 million printer cartridges, manager of environmental policy and strategy for HP supplies, Scott Canonico, said. The process will go into full manufacturing now, he said.

Each inkjet cartridge contains 70 per cent to 100 per cent recycled material. Users will find the process beneficial as cartridges with new material perform better than used or refilled cartridges, Canonico said.

HP allows users to return inkjet cartridges worldwide for free in most cases through its [recycling program], said Ken Fleming, marketing director of supplies for HP. In some cases, a postage-paid return envelope is provided by HP with the inkjet print cartridge box.

The process will apply only to HP cartridges, the company said. No external inkjet cartridge brand is being put through the new recycling process, Canonico said.

Before the implementation of the new process, not all plastic recovered went into making new cartridges, Canonico said. They were used by others to manufacture products including auto parts and toys.

The company has already recycled 1 billion pounds of hardware and hopes to recycle 2 billion [B] pounds by 2010, Canonico said. HP offers recycling options for hardware including PCs, mobile phones and computers.

The inkjet cartridge recycling initiative is the latest in HP's broad effort to be environmentally friendly. HP recently announced that it would implement more energy-efficient technologies across its PC lines to reduce computer energy use by 25 per cent in 2010.

Recycling is one way to go green, Canonico said. "We're always looking to further our commitment to customers and our commitment to the public and environment," he said.

While achieving the closed loop process was an achievement, HP will continue to look for new ways to better recycle products, Canonico said.

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service

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