Original Toner v Remanufactured Round 2 – The Environmental Impact

In my last post, Business Buyers Guide – Toner Cartridges – Originals vs Compatibles, I concluded that for quality, reliability and even price I would opt for original toner over compatibles. The only area that I didn’t touch upon was the environmental impact …

Remanufactured cartridges may seem environmentally-friendly because they’re produced with reused materials, but if you dig a little deeper and look at the whole toner lifecycle, again, you may be surprised.

Clearly there is an environmental benefit to remanufacturing cartridges if they can be used again and again but many remanufacturers prefer to work with cartridges that have never been remanufactured before—meaning most print cartridges are remanufactured only once. The fact is that 94% of remanufactured cartridges will ultimately be thrown away. 1

But how does this compare to a brand new cartridge? Is using a toner cartridge that has at least been recycled once better environmentally that using an original cartridge? To find out the answer I again turned to HP, our own toner supplier, and their answer was definitive “Original HP cartridges are a better overall choice for the environment when compared with remanufactured cartridges” – quite a claim! So what did they have up their sleeve to back up this bold statement?

Firstly there were the basic numbers – “Original HP print cartridges have a 7% lower impact in terms of global warming potential and a 33% lower impact in total waste produced, compared with remanufactured cartridges tested.” But the real basis of HP’s argument is that they look at the whole lifecycle of the cartridge, not just delaying its life until it reaches the landfill.

The big picture

How the cartridge is made

HP doesn’t offer remanufactured print cartridges because they don’t meet their quality and reliability standards. However, HP have engineered ink and LaserJet print cartridges that can use recycled plastic and still meet their standards for quality and reliability. Check out the video below to find out more about the recycling process.

In-life use

Paper is one of the main sources of printing’s environmental impact, and print quality can play a significant role in paper consumption. Using higher-quality Original HP cartridges leads to fewer reprints, less wasted paper (to find out more about his read our last post here) and therefore an overall lower environmental impact.

End of life

I think this is where HP really won it for me; all HP Print cartridges can be returned to HP, free, for them to recycle through their HP Planet Partners program. Simply order a Pre-addressed, postage-paid labels (bulk collection boxes are also available) from this link. If you buy an original HP print cartridge and recycle it through the HP Planet Partners program, there’s no chance it will end up in a landfill. In fact the recycled cartridge material is amongst other things, used to make new HP print cartridges, beginning the whole lifecycle all over again!

If you’d like to find out more about the HP Plant Partners Program – click here, otherwise keep an eye out for the third and final part of our printer supplies series.


1 Sources for competitive environmental information include remanufacturer trade publications, advertising and industry research. Some research commissioned by HP.

Business Buyers Guide – Toner Cartridges – Originals vs Compatibles

Basically you’ve got three options when stocking up on toner cartridges for your laser printer:

  1. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) – made by the printer manufacturer
  2. Compatible toner cartridge – made by a 3rd party with all new compatible parts
  3. Remanufactured toner cartridge – a reconditioned OEM cartridge that is refilled

Pros and cons of using Original Toner

+ OEM toner cartridges have been designed by the manufacturer for their specific printers and without a doubt give the best quality prints with the lowest failure rates.

  The costs can be higher than compatibles or remanufactured cartridges and they’re sometimes perceived to be less environmentally friendly than a reconditioned alternative.

Which option is right for your business?

On the face of it, it seems clear; if you’re not too fussed about quality go for the cheaper compatible/remanufactured cartridges and if you want reliable, quality prints opt for OEM.

HOWEVER, if you dig a little deeper you might just change your mind …

All of our office printers are HP, so out of curiosity I took a closer look at some of the key factors mentioned above to see if HP Original Toner did reliably produce better quality prints and if compatible/remanufactured cartridges were significantly cheaper, here’s what I found:

Reliability

For reliability there are four main considerations:

–         Cartridges that arrive and are unusable

–         A cartridge runs out earlier than it should

–         Print quality so poor that the pages have limited use or are completely unusable

–         Print cartridges that leak or cause damage to your printer

We use original HP toner and I’ve never experienced any of the problems above, so whilst I can say that I believe HP toners to be extremely reliable, it’s hardly a great frame of reference. So the next time our HP rep came into the office I badgered her as to why HP Toner was better, after all their tagline is “Original HP Toner – It Pays You Back”.

I expected some facts and figures alongside marketing waffle but what I actually got was a comprehensive study that convincingly demonstrated why original HP toner is more reliable. I won’t go into all of the details here (you can read the full study for yourselves) but the summary concluded “HP LaserJet print cartridges exhibited no reliability failures in the study, compared to an average of 41.7% for the non HP toner cartridges tested.”

Quality

The same study mentioned above also looked at the quality of printed pages. They looked at a sample of pages taken at periodic intervals over the lifespan of each cartridge and found that “original HP toner printed an average of 97% of sample pages which categorised as acceptable for all uses, compared to an average of 61% for the non-HP toner

Printing documents for your own reference, or even for informal use internally, doesn’t require top notch print quality every time; but as we try and cut down on waste paper this kind of printing is becoming less common anyway. Printing invoices for suppliers, slides for a meeting or letters for customers all require consistent print quality and, unless you have a different printer just for these occasions or take the trouble to switch toners out, the best way to ensure consistent quality is with Original HP Toner.

Price

I took a look at the HP LaserJet Pro 100 colour MFP M175nw, specifically for replacing the black cartridge. The required toner was the HP 126A. To buy the toner on its own on our website costs £34.21, to buy a compatible non HP cartridge cost on average £25.66*. So initially yes it did look cheaper to buy the compatible.

However HP offer a dual pack version of this toner at a cost of £61.32 ex VAT and at the moment HP are offering £15 cash back when you buy 2 dual packs, so a final cost of £27.54** per cartridge– making original HP toner just £1.88 more than compatible non HP toner.

Summary

For me it has to be Original HP Toner every time as I often print documents that are going to be sent externally and that’s just for black and white printing. Colour lasers have even more going on inside, with four different toner cartridges mixing colours to print on the same page.

And if the reliability and quality studies weren’t convincing enough, the price  you can get the Original HP Toner for when you buy the dual packs and find a good offer make it an even easier decision.

The only point I haven’t covered here is the environmental aspect, I asked our HP rep about this too, and again I was bombarded by a mountain of information about the lengths that HP go to reduce their own and their customers ecological footprint, keep an eye out for a follow up post that will argue that HP Original Toner is actually better for the environment …

*Prices checked on uktonercartridges, tonergiant.co.uk, qualitycartridge.co.uk on 21st June 2012.

** Cost of dual pack is £61.32 ex VAT on 21st June 2012, multiply by 2 to give £122.64 ex VAT/£147.17 inc VAT . Less £15 cash back from HP to give £110.14 ex VAT/ £132.17 inc VAT, total for each toner is £27.54