Renewable consumables?

Interesting news from the European Parliament last week, that could have far reaching effects for the industry.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 28, 2002

Interesting news from the European Parliament last week, that could have far reaching effects for the industry.

The EU has passed a law intended to improve the recycling of electrical goods, particularly with an eye to cutting down the amount of ‘electroscrap’ which is simply thrown away.

At present the EU estimates the six million tonnes of electroscrap are generated each year, almost all of which is not recycled but simply dumped into landfills. The EU wants to cut this waste, mainly by recycling three quarters of it, with the law due to come into effect by September 2005.

The part of the new law that is likely to have the most impact on the IT industry is a clause requiring better product design to cut waste. Where this is going to impact the most is in printer cartridges—in fact, the law specifically singles out printer cartridges as an area for improvement.

At present, many companies include chips on their printer cartridges that prevent them from being refilled, or from allowing the use of cartridges from a different manufacturer in a printer. The EU objects to this, seeing it as tantamount to designing products that weren’t meant to be recycled, and is promising tough penalties against those who infringe on the new law.

Compliance with the new law is expected to cost around $7.7 billion to process waste, which is expected to result in small price increases to consumers. Most companies in this field realise that something needs to be done about the levels of waste generated by electrical goods, especially PCs, but for the printer manufacturers, the news is not so good. Many of them rely on cartridge sales for revenues.

In many cases, printer cartridges cost almost as much as one third of the cost of the printers themselves, and manufacturers often subsidise the cost of printers, relying on follow on sales of their cartridges, by preventing users from using other brands. With the new law compelling these manufacturers to have to design cartridges to be re-used, it looks like the model of selling for printers and consumables will have to be completely changed.

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