Cleaning up consumables

Cleaning up consumables

Printer consumables have never been the most environmentally friendly products. But as the industry strives to lift its environmental game the consumables space is lining up to kick some goals.

Green has never been sexier. It's the new black, and it sells.

And while that may become one of the most abused cliches as the IT industry cleans up its collective environmental act, there is more than a grain of truth contained within, at least according to industry observers.

While it is difficult to imagine anyone wolf whistling in lustful admiration of printer consumables, analyst group, Gartner, has noted that taking an "environmentally sensitive" attitude towards printing is not just good lovin' for the soul, it's also good for business.

Gartner claims enterprises employing printers and consumables that reduce energy and material usage, while also decreasing waste, can significantly reduce their total cost of ownership. For Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) information and communications technology manager, David McLean, this trend - essentially a repackaging of the old "reduce, reuse and recycle" motto - is gathering pace.

"I think there has been a lot of change in consciousness in the last 10 years and it is really starting to show now," he said. "We've got a lot more to do, but overall the IT industry is thinking about green issues, power consumption, carbon emissions, and that's a big shift. That's in step with what the rest of society is thinking about and doing."

Indeed, the statistics cast a green radiance: Over 80 per cent of Australian employees now want to work for an environmentally conscious company, 80 per cent of enterprise customers evaluate green criteria when they make a purchase and over half of those give preference to companies that have demonstrated a commitment to the environment.

Yet for the printer consumables space, reconciling environmental goals with business realities is a process full of contradictions.

"I find it hard to talk about too many green messages when it comes to consumables because no matter which way you put it, it is still the waste component of the product," Kyocera product marketing manager, Mark Vella, said. "But one thing you look at as a company is ways to reduce that waste. That's key for the customer not only environmentally but also cost savings wise."

Oki Printing Solutions general manager, Graham Harman, took a similar line.

"I think there's always going to be a problem between people being green and protecting their investment or their ongoing revenue," he said. "The printing game is not really about selling printers, it's about selling consumables. So it's a balance of protecting our customer and making sure they are getting consistency in their print, making sure they are getting the expected volume out of those toners, and making sure they are getting the colour resolution."

At the same time, Harman agreed that decreasing the total cost of ownership and with it environmental impacts has become a big focus, particularly through manufacturing longer life drums and managed print services enabling better inventory control.

"At the end of the day we're not trashing these unused toners and drums, and I've seen plenty of that," he said."And I think that initiative in itself is much more mature in the [United] States and Europe but it is starting to be taken up here with people talking about a managed print service.

"Whatever we do - recycling, or making machines with fewer parts, making drums last longer - every single thing might seem minimal but if every industry, and not just our industry, did something then obviously it extrapolates out to a big number."

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