I got a call from a customer recently who said that he would not consider any type of alternative inkjet cartridge or CIS for his printer because he heard that it voids the warranty. He insisted on one-time-use carts. I corrected his false perception of warranty voiding right away and then I explained why it is so important to support ReUse and inkjet.

In case you have doubts about your warranty, there are two very important US laws that protect consumers of inkjet printers from having their warranties voided. The most well known is the Sherman Anti-Trust Act which prohibits manufacturers from monopolizing their own brand of consumables for their own products which require replacement consumables. The second law is the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act which specifically prohibits a manufacturer from denying warranty work to a consumer that uses a third party consumable. The only thing that a manufacturer can do is deny coverage if the consumable is proven to cause problems that their own consumables do not. Some examples of this would be an actual physical injury to the printer. I assured the customer that we also maintain insurance for our products in case his printer was injured by fault of our products.

We then began to discus ReUse. If you are not familiar with ReUse, it is the highest form of recycling that one can do. Rather than re-purpose products for additional uses, ReUse actually uses the same product over and over again. Recycling plastic for example will require energy to remanufacture it into some other products. Often the OEM will take back their empty cartridges to “recycle” with the mistaken belief that incinerating them produces energy. It can produce energy, but it is not a good form of recycling because it also produces toxic wastes. Today we need clean forms of energy, and specifically not a form that burns up inkjet carts in order to produce heat that is turned into electricity.

ReUse sets out to take a product and put it to its same task once its original purpose is realized. In inkjet this is very important because cartridges contain a microchip. The manufacturing of microchips is one of the most toxic forms of manufacturing possible. The amount of toxins that it puts into the environment is staggering. It also is responsible for the most work related illnesses because it is such a carcinogenic manufacturing process. The chip is easily reset, and there is no reason that it should only be used once.

But, the OEM strives to make their ink cartridges nearly impossible to reuse again. They use one-way valves to prevent refilling. There seems to be no reason for this other than preventing their customers from choosing alternative ink supplies. The OEM can rightly argue that refilling their cartridge might result in the introduction of some inferior ink supply to the printer.

Most inkjet consumers use a cartridge once and then simply throw it away. It is estimated that in 2007, 450 million ink cartridges were thrown into landfill in the USA. Worldwide that number climbs to over 650 million. Consider that the plastic in these 450 million cartridges accounts for 10% of the total amount of foreign oil that is imported into the USA every year. It can take two quarts of oil to make one large ink cart. It is a staggering amount of waste. It is also a staggering amount of material thrown into landfills; materials that can take thousands of years to degrade.

While ReUse can not prevent the amount of waste that flows into the maintenance tank nor the waste ink pads, it can allow you to print at about 20% of the cost of the OEM. It also prevents the needless throwing away of products which can be reused over and over again.

ReUse is a simple concept really. In practice it requires a little patience initially, and then becomes second nature. Refilling a cartridge is not a difficult task really. The initial fill requires some priming in large format carts and some vacuum filling in the small format. InkjetMall produced two videos that show how easy it is and you can view those right here.

Small format refillable carts contain so little ink (about 12ml), that agitating them is not necessary. Our large format carts often hold more ink than the OEM. The OEM writes on their product that it should be discarded within six months after first use. They do this because their pigment falls out of suspension. All pigment inks do. But, the remedy is not to throw away the cart before it is exhausted. Rather, the cart can be removed and gently shaken. We think its a good practice to shake carts every few weeks. In the video you can see Dana actually shaking the printer. It’s easier than removing carts.

I first began offering refillable carts back in 2005/6 when my son enforced recycling in our own house. He was very involved in recycling at Putney School in Vermont. At first it was very difficult for Cathy and I to adapt; to learn what went where, what can held what, and what could actually be thrown away. Today, we are proud to recycle or compost far more than we throw away. Spencer had told us even in our own business that we should provide a remedy rather than being part of the problem. Today, all of our ink products come in cartridges that can be refilled. Even the carts that look like one-time-use carts, are actually refillable and thereby ReUsable.