In 1990, Canon became the first company in the world to begin collecting and recycling toner cartridges, operating its own cartridge recycling scheme.

However, until recently, the issue of recycling toner bottles for multifunctional devices proved more difficult; no company was able to offer a technology which could satisfactorily remove the toner powder from the toner bottle, meaning that it was not cost effective to recycle the plastic.

Recognising that this was not only a problem for Canon but also across the entire industry, Canon approached eReco, an IT recycling firm, to see if it could come up with a solution.

After a year of research, eReco developed a process which enabled the effective removal of toner powder from the bottle, meaning that the plastic from the bottles could be recycled into products such as traffic cones and games consoles.

The company also recycles the toner powder itself, meaning that nothing is sent to landfill.

“The idea was originally developed in line with Canon’s requirements but the service is so popular that hundreds of Canon’s customers have taken up our service and many other print manufacturers are now using the service too,” says Jane Taylor, eReco’s managing director.

“The process ensures that no materials are sent to landfill and 99.7% of the toner bottle and powder are completely recycled.”

Once eReco receives the toner bottles, they are fully asset-tracked. This makes the recycling process fully auditable, enabling companies to meet the requirements for environmental accreditations like ISO14001 and EMAS.

A key part of the recycling process is the extraction of the toner – the powder used in laser printers and photocopiers to form the printed text and images on the paper.

Heavy contamination of toner powder means the plastics cannot be cleaned enough to be reused. But the eReco solution removes the waste toner powder which can itself be used to make other products, such as tile resin, anti-vandal paint and as a plasticiser in cement.

Once the toner has been removed and materials separated, the plastics are sorted, separating the polymers so they can be repeatedly recycled unlike, for example, the use of mixed plastics in low grade garden furniture.

Since implementing the programme in 2008, Canon has recycled 190,962 individual waste print consumable units. This has diverted over 97,000 tonnes of waste from landfill, as well as saving almost 44,000 gallons of oil and 464,000 gallons of water by recycling the plastic rather than manufacturing virgin plastic. And it has saved almost 128 tonnes of CO2.

The scheme also boosts Canon’s global ISO14001 certification, as it is able to track the full recycling process while providing customers that want to participate with a way of achieving their own environmental objectives.

“Canon has a strong heritage when it comes to environmental policies, driven by our philosophy of ‘kyosei’ which literally translates to, ‘living and working together for the common good’,” says Surrie Everett-Pascoe, Canon UK & Ireland’s CSR, environment and product safety manager.

“This shapes how we conduct our business; not only how we reduce our own environmental impact, but also that of our customers.”

This latest initiative is only part of Canon’s environmental story. It has invested more than £27M in its purpose-built head office, for example, to make it more sustainable.

The building has won nine awards including the highest rating by BREEAM for its energy saving initiatives. Canon UK also buys more than 80% of its energy from renewable sources.

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