Soy-based printer cartridge distributor seeks to make mark

SymbioPrint's products are based on SoyPrint, a process that replaces the petroleum in printer toner by soybean oil.

Printers get a bad rap from a green technology point of view because of all the paper they use and the spent toner or ink cartridges they generate that have to be reused or recycled or worse. But what about the make-up of what is in those printer supplies? The actual ink and toner that makes its mark on the printed page.

That's the focus of SymbioPrint, a German distributor of "biotoner" cartridges and printing supplies that now is seeking to make its mark in the North American market.

SymbioPrint is a licensee of a brand called SoyPrint, developed by Print Recovery Concepts of Lewiston, Maine. SoyPrint toner is made from soybean oil that is a byproduct of animal feed. The company is careful to note that the soybean oil it sources is from sustainable agricultural operations. SoyPrint's process replaces the petroleum that is used in the toner for traditional laser jet cartridges, which is about 3 liters (or six U.S. pints).

Soy-based printing actually isn't such a new concept; it is used in approximately 25 percent of all commercial printing processes, according to SymbioPrint's literature.

Dolin Pereira, CEO of SymbioPrint Americas, says the SoyPrint-based supplies address two primary challenges poised by traditional laser jet cartridges. First, is the use of petroleum, which many green product companies seek to decrease. He also suggests that SoyPrint-based cartridges can help reduce the release of certain petroleum-based chemicals -- such as benzene (a known carcinogen), styrene and toluene -- during the printing process. The latter benefit, in particular, has been of interest to some of SymbioPrint Americas' initial corporate customers in the United States, especially healthcare organizations that are heavily reliant on printing processes for their daily workflow and processes, Periera said.

SymbioPrint currently offers soy-based laser cartridges for printers from Canon and Hewlett-Packard, and it plans to introduce supplies for printers from Dell, Lexmark and Samsung in the fall of 2011. (Pereira also mentioned Brother during our chat, but the company's press release doesnt mention that brand)

Pereira said companies won't pay a price premium for the biotoner cartridges. It isn't currently making ink-jet supplies, but that's a future vision, he said.