Print plays its part in sustainability

Environmental concerns among businesses mean that printing is being looked at in order  to try and reduce waste and CO2 emissions – but it goes much further than just printing less…

The coronavirus pandemic has had many effects on business over past months but, arguably, one of the few positives was the acceleration of digital transformation for numerous companies, which has helped to drive efficiencies, including in printing.

“As part of this transformation, more processes are automated or digitised to achieve efficiencies, so the knock-on effect is people are printing less,” says Cameron Mitchell, business unit leader (partner channel) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd. “A positive by-product is the sustainability aspect of printing less. At the same time, customers are demanding print solutions that enable them to be more proactive in terms of controlling what they’re printing, as they strive to reduce costs and be more sustainable.

“Konica Minolta’s print management solutions provide this control – but customers are adopting different tactics over and beyond print management. For example, data analysis solutions help identify which processes can be easily automated to improve outcomes, ultimately helping them print less through the deployment of workflow automation solutions. Our customers’ sustainability targets also mean they look to their partners/the supply chain to ensure they’re doing all they can to reduce their own carbon footprint.”

Richard Wells, head of business sales at Epson UK, adds that ‘print as a service’ has grown in popularity. “The term ‘fit-and-forget’ is how we like to describe the relationship businesses have grown to expect with their printers,” he says. “All of the function, none of the burdens. Consequently, ‘print as a service’ has boomed as a further means of minimising the hassle for businesses in buying, maintaining, replenishing and generally managing their printers.

“Epson’s approach to outfitting the workplace is to encourage a ‘green balanced deployment’, applying the perfect balance of minimising your carbon footprint while maximising productivity, and MPS is a perfect vehicle for realising this even further.”

Michele Mabilia, head of product marketing at Kyocera Document Solutions (U.K.) Ltd, agrees that customer demands are changing. “Environmental sustainability has become a significant motivator for decisions in every strata of society” he says. “Critically, more organisations are publicly seeking to reduce their environmental impact through more sustainable business practices, supply chains and procurement. Sustainability in office printing has become a key aspect of wider corporate social responsibility objectives.”

“Organisations that undergo sustainability audits find plenty of opportunities to leverage print in a more environmentally positive way.” Michele adds that these break down into three areas:

  • Choosing the right equipment vendor, based on their track record and demonstrable commitment to sustainability, e.g. ISO 14001 environmental certification.
  • Understanding the environmental sustainability of vendors’ manufacturing processes for printers and MFP components.
  • Evaluating to what extent using printers and MFPs can contribute to sustainability objectives throughout their life cycle.

Much of this comes down to being responsible and transparent with partners and customers, says Deyon Antoine, product manager for Toshiba Tec UK. Deyon believes that managed print services can help from environmental standpoint. “Ease of servicing and repair is very much in the interest of the manufacturers and this has resulted in devices that can long outlast printers which are not designed for this business model.

“Toshiba has been leveraging the greater connectivity in their devices to benefit the environment. Our service teams diagnose issues remotely, meaning they can ensure they have the correct part to fix a device before attending the client’s site – hugely increasing the first-visit fix rate. Fewer trips to the site drastically cut the number of journeys and associated environmental impact. Similarly, this data is also used for preventative maintenance on devices, which keeps them running smoothly with less downtime – again minimising trips to our client’s sites.”

Driving innovation

The drive to sustainability is also encouraging innovation. For instance, Toshiba has a range of hybrid MFPs that can print with erasable blue toner as well as standard toner. “Most printed documents are thrown away the same day they are printed, creating an enormous amount of paper waste. This device allows users to use the same sheet of paper over and over again.”

Gemmer Crozier, sustainable development co-ordinator at Brother UK, agrees, saying that new systems are increasingly being scored against their ability to help firms to cut waste, energy use or emissions, and suppliers’ green credentials are being put under the microscope as buyers strive to reduce the environmental impact of their supply chains.

“The sector has a wealth of products, tools and services that are collectively helping clients to achieve their sustainability goals,” she says. “Pull print and ID printing functionality is cutting paper waste, for example, while new inkjets are providing lower power alternatives to energy-conscious customers.”


Gemmer adds that recycling also plays an important role. “Customers increasingly want sustainable ways of disposing their print cartridges and toners,” she says. “More than 159,000 toner cartridges were returned for recycling by UK customers to our dedicated plant in North Wales, up 10% on the previous 12 months.”

Nick Brooks, commercial manager at CTS Toner Supplies Ltd, agrees. “All our product has the crossed-out wheelie bin WEEE symbol which encourages appropriate, environmentally-friendly, disposal. Awareness of managed disposal has increased, and CTS is happy to work with dealers to provide a suitable solution.

“We work with an independent recycling partner, Zero Waste Recycling, that boasts zero landfill and, from our recent data, 98% of the spent cartridges were being recycled/repurposed, with the remaining 2% incinerated as energy fuel.”

He adds that compatibles should not be written off from a green perspective either. “These are also fully recyclable, if handled correctly, and all the constituent parts – plastics, metals, residual toner powder – can be repurposed into other products.”

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