The humble printer and photocopier can be a mini blackhole when it comes to expenses.
Many of us have worked in offices where the printing room is an unsupervised hotbed of wasted paper and ink. But, when it comes to schools, often the amount of wastage is multiplied, thanks to unnecessary printing of resources that could be handled electronically.
We’ve looked previously at the monetary costs associated with printing in school environments, which quoted Microsoft’s Education Marketing Manager Ray Fleming, who stated that schools often spend more on printing than they do on IT:
“An average school will use 1m sheets of paper a year and spend £60,000 (AUD $120k) on photocopying but only £56,000 (AUD $110k) on IT.”
The environmental cost of this amount of paper use is startling enough, but when we consider the additional burden of disposing of printer toner and ink cartridges, we can start to understand the immense size of the problem.
According to not-for-profit Australian environmental foundation, Planet Ark, Australians throw away more than 18 million printer cartridges every year. This equates to over 5,000 tonnes of non-biodegradable material that ends up as landfill. Compounding the issue is the fact that, when these cartridges break apart, they can potentially contaminate groundwater and the environment.
In the UK, it is estimated only 15% of the 65 million printer cartridges sold each year are recycled.
For your health
Another often-ignored danger of printing is the affect it can have on your health.
Toner ink can contain carcinogens such as ‘carbon black’ – a dust that isn’t exposed during normal use but can be released if a cartridge is mishandled, and they can also emit carbon monoxide when overheated or place in poorly ventilated areas.
Studies have looked into the effects of sitting in close proximity to a printer and found there is a possibility of illness from spending long periods of time near printers, especially if not set up or used properly.
What can be done?
Thankfully, there is a lot that schools can do to help the environment when it comes to printing.
In Australia, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is a recycling program for toner and ink cartridges that has collected and recycled over 28 million cartridges since its inception. The program offers collection bins for schools that use a lot of cartridges and have drop-off points at many participating stores. They also have competitions for schools that participate, offering prizes made from cartridges they have recycled.
Also in Australia and the US, Close the Loop is a recycling program that turns used cartridges into products as diverse as pens, garden benches and even tarmac. In the US alone, the program has recovered close to 69,000 tonnes of material that otherwise would have gone to landfill. They too offer collection boxes for cartridge recovery.
In the US, most major ink and toner cartridge manufacturers will also offer a service to collect and recycle your used cartridges. In the UK, companies such as The Recycling Factory and Recycling 4 Charity will take your used cartridges, and even have programs aimed at schools.
There are many options when it comes to staying green within your school. Creating a program to collect and recycle your ink and toner cartridges is something simple that can have a huge positive impact on the environment. Of course, finding ways to reduce your use of printers and photocopiers should always be the first step in any attempt to make your school more sustainable.
Ask us how the ParentPaperwork system is contributing to environmental sustainability in schools.