Good news, bad news on the green printer front

Some good news and bad news today about an oft-disrespected and overused piece of technology, printers.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Some good news and bad news today about an oft-disrespected and overused piece of technology, printers.

Because one should always leave on a high-note, I'll start with the not-so-go-great info, which is this: The Electronics TakeBack Coalition has issued a report covering the recycling and product takeback efforts of many information technology and consumer electronics companies that suggests most printer companies have a long way to go in terms of developing programs for handling used supplies and printing/imaging devices. Hewlett-Packard fares most favorably on this list, but it only earns an average score.

Keep in mind that this particular organization is focused sharply on takeback and recycling programs, so this isn't a broad statement on the overall green-ness of the companies. Key criteria considered included how many collection sites there are per state, the volume of products being collected, and the way the technology or cartridges are handled once they are in-hand. But it does suggest that there is still progress to be made when it comes to design printers with environmental issues in mind.

Here's why the organization cares: many consumer printers have become ultra-cheap. Says Barbara Kyle, the national coordinator of the Electronics Takeback Coalition:

"If you don't offer physical collection sites or events, you are not serious about your takeback program. With so many cheap printers being practically disposable these days, the printer companies should be doing a lot more to make sure they get their old equipment back. Most of the printer companies simply offer mailback recycling programs, but statistics show that people won't mail back larger products like printers."

Admittedly, this report is rather geared on the consumer end of the market. And I'd like to point out that many of the top printer manufacturers have, at least, are addressing the design side of the equation. The latest examples are two new business class color printers from Xerox: the Xerox ColorQube 8870 ($2,499) and the Xerox ColorQube 8570 ($699 and up).

What makes these printers green? Here some of the specific features:

  • Energy Star compliance
  • Solid ink that is designed to generate up to 90 percent less waste than rival laser printer technology
  • Print drivers that default to two-sided printing and for using recycled paper more effectively
  • A power management feature called Intelligent Ready that uses artificial intelligence to take traditional usage patterns into account and power down accordingly
  • GreenPrint software that lets you know if you are about print unnecessary pages

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