Even nowadays, in our digital age, most businesses still use paper and printing in their offices. According to the statistics, almost 95% of all United States companies still store their information on paper. An average office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Office printing remains a significant financial burden for many businesses and has a bad aspects of the environmental impact.
Ink printers and their ink comprise various chemical ingredients that affect our environment and health. The harmful and toxic factors of cartridges used for printing are felt since they are manufactured. When you make a new laser cartridge, you consume over three quarts of oil. For inkjet cartridges, about three ounces of oil are required; the inks also release toxic fumes into the atmosphere during printing. These vent fumes can be harmful, especially if they are inhaled. Some inks cause problems after they are discarded. Therefore, according to the guidelines provided by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all workers working in the print industry must wear protective gloves and masks when dealing with toxic chemicals.
Throwing an old toner or ink cartridge has many adverse effects because heavy metals can pollute the water and soil. However, approximately 375 million old empty toner and ink cartridges are discarded yearly, ending in landfills. This means that every 11 seconds, one cartridge is thrown away in the world. To better understand how damaging these cartridges are, you should know that a cartridge takes around 1,000 years to decompose fully.
Another negative impact of printing is that manufacturing just one cartridge emits over 4.8 kg of CO2 Greenhouse Gases. Generally, a cartridge that yields about five thousand pages can contain 200g of toner, meaning the CO2 emission per cartridge is 3.2 kg. As a result, one household of four people emits approximately 1,200 kilograms of CO2 a month.
The negative impact of cartridges on the environment can be reduced with the help of recycling and reusing. However, the statistics say that no more than 50% of all used toner cartridges are reused, and less than 30% are disposed of properly.
Assessing Environmental Impact of Printing Industry
What is eco-friendly or “Green” printing?
Green printing combines green and eco-friendly practices within the printing industry focused on using renewable energy resources, using recycled materials, and reducing greenhouse emissions and energy. Here are some of the green printing practices:
- Recycle and reuse whenever possible. Recycled printing paper today is more affordable and accessible than ever before. Moreover, some eco-friendly papers available today are entirely carbon neutral. Some of the eco-friendly papers can also be produced using renewable energy. Wind power is one example. Regardless of the type of eco-friendly paper you choose, you can be sure to print with the same high quality you expect from regular paper.
- Go paperless. Of course, it is impossible to stop using paper completely. However, there are still ways to cut down on printing. Numerous modern technologies offer effective, paperless solutions. For example, some websites and applications fill the niches previously occupied by paper. Almost every modern smartphone today has the option to take digital notes. There is even a possibility to scan documents with a mobile device to save a digital copy.
- Double-sided printing. It is one of the easiest ways to reduce the negative impact of printing on the environment. Instead of leaving a blank side on every sheet, you use for printing; you can do printing on both sides, cutting the number of sheets you use in half. This strategy will have a positive impact not only on the environment but also on its financial costs.
- Using eco-friendly inks. As mentioned above, traditional ink is toxic and harmful to the environment. Therefore, eco-friendly alternatives such as vegetable- and soy-based inks are better. If unsure whether the ink manufacturer is eco-friendly, you can always check if the manufacturer is ISO certified. ISO certifications prove the company is trying to manage its internal and external environmental impact.
Is color printing worse for the environment?
Black and white or monochrome printing is always a better and safer option for the environment. The main reason is that monochrome printers use less consumable parts, like toner cartridges. As a result, these cartridges are not wasted.
What is eco-friendly ink?
There are several types of eco-friendly inks, including the following:
- UV Ink. This type of ink does not contain solvent and can evaporate throughout the curing phase.
- Soy-based ink. Compared to petroleum-based ink. This type of ink is made from soybeans. This makes soy-bean ink more environmentally friendly and safe. The biggest advantage of this type of ink is that it offers a wide range of accurate colors.
- Eco-solvent ink. It is a non-water-based ink made from the extracts of refined mineral oil. Also, it is entirely odor-free, water-resistant, and contains no VOCs or solvents.
It is hard to believe that printing off a document can have a severe negative impact on our planet, health, and environment. However, unfortunately, it can. Therefore, our task is to do all we can to reduce the negative impact of the printing industry and start using more eco-friendly solutions for our health and well-being.
Why is printing not environmentally friendly?
Printing is not environmentally friendly due to several reasons:
1. Paper consumption: Printing requires a significant amount of paper, which contributes to deforestation and the depletion of natural resources.
2. Energy consumption in Printing involves the use of energy-intensive equipment such as printers and copiers, which consume electricity. This reliance on energy from non-renewable sources contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
3. Chemical usage: Printing often involves the use of inks, toners, and other chemical substances that can be harmful to the environment. Improper disposal of these chemicals can contaminate soil and water sources.
4. Waste generation: Printing can result in a high volume of wasted paper, either due to printing errors, outdated documents, or unnecessary printing. This waste adds to the overall waste stream and requires proper disposal or recycling.
To minimize the environmental impact of printing, it is recommended to adopt digital alternatives, use recycled or sustainable paper, print double-sided, and practice responsible waste management and recycling.
Can printing be eco-friendly?
Yes, printing can be made eco-friendly by implementing certain practices. Here are a few tips to make printing more environmentally friendly:
1. Use recycled paper: Opt for paper made from post-consumer waste or sustainably sourced materials.
2. Print double-sided: Maximize paper usage by printing on both sides of the paper whenever possible.
3. Choose eco-friendly inks: Select vegetable-based or soy-based inks, which are more environmentally friendly compared to traditional petroleum-based inks.
4. Print in smaller quantities: Only print what is necessary to reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact.
5. Implement paperless alternatives: Whenever feasible, consider digital alternatives like email or online documents to reduce paper usage.
6. Recycle and dispose responsibly: Recycle used paper and ink cartridges properly to ensure they are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
By following these practices, you can reduce the environmental footprint of printing and make it more eco-friendly.
Is Colour printing worse for the environment?
Colour printing generally requires more ink or toner compared to black and white printing, which can have an impact on the environment. However, the environmental impact of colour printing depends on several factors such as the type of ink or toner used, the printing technology, and the paper used.
Inkjet printers tend to use less energy compared to laser printers, but they may consume more ink. On the other hand, laser printers may consume more energy but use toner more efficiently. Additionally, using recycled or sustainably sourced paper can help reduce the environmental impact of printing.
To minimize the environmental impact of colour printing, consider printing only when necessary, using eco-friendly ink or toner cartridges, choosing energy-efficient printers, and using recycled or sustainably sourced paper.
What could reduce the negative impact of printers on the environment?
Reducing the negative impact of printers on the environment can be achieved by implementing the following practices:
1. Print only when necessary and encourage digital alternatives.
2. Use eco-friendly, recycled paper and opt for double-sided printing.
3. Choose energy-efficient printers and enable power-saving settings.
4. Recycle ink and toner cartridges properly.
5. Implement a paperless office by digitizing documents and embracing digital workflows.
6. Dispose of old printers responsibly, either by recycling or donating.
7. Encourage employees to use print preview and make necessary edits before printing.
8. Optimize printer settings for reduced ink or toner usage.
9. Educate staff on responsible printing practices and the environmental impact.
10. Monitor and track printing usage to identify areas for improvement and implement strategies for reducing waste.