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 user 2009-10-23 at 10:21:32 am Views: 40
  • #22566

    Matt Chapman talks to HP about its recycling efforts and how they have evolved since the early days.
    has a dirty little secret. Everyone seems to know that the airline
    industry contributes two per cent of the world’s global greenhouse
    gasses, but who makes up the rest?“The one thing that people don’t talk
    about is that IT also contributes about two per cent,” admits Bruno
    Zago, UK and Ireland environmental manager at HP. “The thing is, that
    IT figure is set to rise. It’ll probably reach around four per cent
    across the globe by 2020.”

    Such an alarming figure isn’t going
    unchecked by an industry that now finds itself fighting to conserve
    materials, improve efficiency and recycle more of its products.“People
    totally underestimate the amount this industry invests in research and
    development pushing the boundaries forward. You’ve only really got to
    look back a few years and see just how fast we’re printing now and how
    much the quality has ramped up in such a short period of time. The
    amount of investment that’s gone on there is staggering,” says Peter
    Mayhew, director at Lyra Research.“It’s inevitable you now see that
    coming out through environmental initiatives.”Zago says HP’s green
    efforts began in 1992 when the company founded its Design For
    Environment programme, appointing product stewards to work from an
    environmental prospective. “Back in 1992 all the product designers were
    going, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, nobody’s interested in that at the moment.
    Get back in your box.’ But now the product stewards don’t have to go to
    the product designers anymore because the designers go to them saying,
    ‘What have you got for me? How can I make this better?’” Zago
    reveals.Zago claims HP has also expanded its environmental campaign in
    other areas of its business. Improvements in the supply chain mean HP
    knows where its notebooks are being shipped, cutting down two huge
    manuals to one six-page booklet written in the local language.

    laser ink cartridges have had their parts reduced by about 36 per cent,
    using fewer types of plastic. HP’s latest laser jet printers also
    require 15 per cent less energy to fuse the ink to the paper and the
    cartridges are about nine per cent smaller by weight. Technology has
    similarly been introduced to reduce wasted energy. “In a lot of our
    competitors’ products the fusing unit just stays hot the whole time
    because that’s the difficult piece in getting the first page out as
    quick as possible. Using instant-on technology we reckon we’ve saved
    around 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions since its inception in 1993.
    That probably doesn’t mean that much to you but it’s like taking 1.4
    million American cars off the road,” Zago adds.

    Dean Miller,
    programme lead for worldwide inkjet supplies recycling at HP, says
    innovation hasn’t always come easily. “There was no off-the-shelf
    equipment available and there was no catalogue for this equipment. And
    so we had to look to innovation from a number of areas,” Miller
    says.“HP began taking back inkjet cartridges in 1997 and the manager I
    work for today actually provided a washing machine that was used for
    the first rinsing of recycled plastics. And the envelope removal
    equipment that we are using in North America was developed out of
    designs from the agriculture industries. We’re pulling off envelopes
    using a similar method to the way corn is shucked in automated
    corn-processing plants. The sorting in the US also uses an X-ray system
    that came from the food industry.”Understandably, HP’s recycling
    attempts took a slow but steady path towards the current plants based
    around the world.

    Miller says it took four years for the
    development of the reclaimed PET plastic to reach a stage where in 2004
    it could be integrated into the first product. However, that wasn’t
    back into an inkjet cartridge. “The first product was a small internal
    part on an HP scanner. It wasn’t until 2005 we got the first cartridge
    qualified using the recycled PET material,” he reveals. Today’s
    products have come a long way by comparison. “We’re not just taking the
    plastic and reusing it and seeing the properties diminish over time,”
    Miller adds. “Each time we create a new batch of material we bring the
    properties back up to the original state. We’ve done studies up to
    seven iterations and have seen no degradation whatsoever.” For all its
    benefits, one of the quandaries the recycling process throws up is the
    shipment of tonnes of cartridges and raw materials around the world.
    Zago answers those concerns by saying the process is still in its
    infancy and can be expanded in the future to cut down unnecessary

    “It goes to America today for the refining stage
    but the plan is that once the volumes build up and we know what we’re
    doing in terms of recycling and refinement then a refinement plant will
    be opened in each region,” he claims.The very act of recycling
    cartridges also throws up its own legal questions. “We can incentivise
    consumers to return the cartridges on a temporary basis in some
    countries,” explains Cristina Mannucci Benincasa, environmental
    marketing manager for Imaging and Printing at HP in Europe, the Middle
    East and Africa (EMEA). “Usually this is in the range of a couple of
    Euros. It helps the customers become more conscious that these services
    exist and it’s not possible in every country.”“One of the big problems
    we have is around anti-competition law, because if we start to say
    we’ll offer you money back for cartridges, we then start to be seen to
    restrict companies that refill them,” adds Zago.

    Pupkowska, programme manager of imaging and hardcopy consumables at
    analyst IDC, also noted that HP’s decision to recycle rather than
    refill made sure cartridges were less likely to end up with
    refillers.“HP is tapping into general worldwide trends when it comes to
    environmental protection. On the other hand, the step that HP has taken
    to be green and eco friendly in its manufacturing and recycling
    processes helps them protect against the after market, meaning the
    regeneration of cartridges,” she proposed.“So the supply of empties is
    getting reduced on the market and it’s quite an efficient measure to
    reduce the competition from regenerators.”However, Pupkowska believes
    that both competing systems – refilling or recycling – have a similar
    environmental impact. “Maybe with some succession that if empties
    collected by other vendors do not qualify for remanufacturing after a
    selection process they could end up as landfill,” she added.

    all the talk of recycling versus remanufacturing, it’s a surprise that
    HP hasn’t tried both options itself. “We have looked at refilling or
    remanufacturing and I don’t know how much you know about those
    processes but there are differences and I think so far we cannot
    achieve the quality that our customers want by
    refilling/remanufacturing,” Zago said.“It’s not something we’re not
    going to do going forward but we will look at it again in the
    future.”“I think that OEMs by the nature of their business model want
    to go down the recycling route rather than a refilling/remanufacturing
    route. It’s the whole razorblades business model,” concludes Lyra’s
    Mayhew.“I think only time will tell, because if you look at the
    opposite side of the coin and what re-manufacturers are doing to
    communicate both their value and green credentials, then you’ll hear
    some very strong arguments that are directly opposed to where the OEMs
    sit. Whether those two cultures – and they almost are cultures – will
    ever come together is an open question right now.”