HP gives new life to used printer cartridges

Hewlett-Packard Co. is boosting its effort to effectively recycle used ink-jet printer cartridges. On Wednesday, it introducing a new process that manufactures cartridges from recycled cartridges that are separated and rebuilt from scratch.

The "closed-loop" process gives used HP ink-jet cartridges a sustainable end-of-life value and puts the materials back to good use while being environmentally friendly, HP representatives said.

The process first breaks down the plastic in printer cartridges made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Then, additives including fibers and resins are used to strengthen and regenerate the plastic. The remolded plastic is then used to manufacture new HP ink-jet cartridges.

The plastics or cartridges are not melted, refilled, resold or sent to a landfill, HP said. The process also applies to other products, such as PET water bottles, HP representatives said.

The process, which went into pilot in 2005, has already resulted in HP manufacturing 200 million printer cartridges, said Scott Canonico, manager of environmental policy and strategy for HP supplies. The process will go into full manufacturing now, he said.

Each ink-jet cartridge contains 70% to 100% recycled material.

HP allows users to return ink-jet cartridges worldwide for free, in most cases, through its recycling program, said Ken Fleming, marketing director of supplies at HP. In some cases, a postage-paid return envelope is provided by HP with the ink-jet print cartridge box.

The process will apply only to HP cartridges, the company said. No external ink-jet cartridge brand is being put through the new recycling process, Canonico said.

Before the implementation of the new process, not all plastic recovered went into making new cartridges, Canonico said. They were used by others to manufacture products including auto parts and toys.

The company has already recycled 1 billion pounds of hardware and hopes to recycle 2 billion pounds by 2010, Canonico said. HP offers recycling options for hardware including PCs, cell phones and computers.

The ink-jet cartridge recycling initiative is the latest in HP's broad effort to be environmentally friendly. HP recently announced that it would implement more energy-efficient technologies across its PC lines to reduce computer energy use by 25% in 2010.

While achieving the closed-loop process was an achievement, HP will continue to look for new ways to better recycle products, Canonico said.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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