Re-use more sustainable than recycling in document management and printing

People sometimes have trouble making a clear distinction between the two terms “reuse” and “recycling”.

September 4, 2012

People sometimes have trouble making a clear distinction between the two terms “reuse” and “recycling”. It is commonly thought that recycling is to give something a second life, or to reprocess a material to make something else (of a lower quality). Reuse, however, might have associations with being second-hand, used or outdated. It has connections with the idea of salvaging, or that the object is to be used for the same function as originally intended.

“Fortunately, industry definitions of the two terms do make a clear distinction and, in manufacturing, re-use sits on a higher pedestal than recycling,” says Dave Clark, managing director of Océ South Africa, a specialist in document management and printing for professionals and a wholly-owned member of the Bidvest Group.

“Part of our mandate is to demonstrate to customers eco-efficient solutions and eco-effective technologies for document management. The remanufacture of machines, units and parts has significant positive environmental benefit. An Océ study has determined that the CO2footprint in producing a remanufactured system is just under half of the footprint of producing a new system.”

About 85 percent of the weight of a machine is re-used during remanufacturing, which means the impact on the environment is considerably less than recycling.

“Even in a highly commoditised world, re-use still has functions and applications, driven by economics and concern for the environment,” says Clark. “Material depletion in the future and the rising cost of energy in all forms will mean that re-use takes on greater significance.”

Policy at Océ is to re-use at the highest possible level. Machinery and equipment returned to the company much earlier than its technical end of life, and those scheduled to be returned at the end of lease contracts, are refurbished or re-manufactured. Similarly, parts exchanged during services that can be re-used are repaired and used again in the field or in product assembly.

“The benefits of asset recovery and remanufacturing (re-use) include sustainability, good business practice, compliance with legislation and knowledge accumulation, while the benefits of buying a remanufactured or refurbished machine relate directly to sustainability, people, the planet and profit.

“Initially, companies may introduce asset recovery and re-manufactured products for economical reasons, but benefits for people and the earth in general will follow. Re-use creates employment and recycling companies are becoming big businesses.”

A re-manufactured machine requires fewer steps in the production process and these help to avoid unnecessary extraction of materials and reduce the energy required to produce and transport them. End users and educational institutions can benefit from acquiring perfectly maintained printers and copiers. Students and researchers at schools and universities also receive these benefits, albeit indirectly.

“Another advantage of design for re-use is easier and quicker service options that result from easily removable and replaceable parts for upgrades or revisions. The Océ products have a platform design that enables quick time to market alongside high potential for re-use.”

Clark adds that sustainability is designed into the products. For example, many Océ printers and all of the copiers are designed with short paper paths that reduce misfeeds, saving energy and reducing waste material caused by jamming.

“The systems are designed for low heat, noise, dust and ozone emissions. In many of the systems, developer and fuser oil are not required so that toner residue is minimal. Paper usage can also be reduced by half with automatic, single pass duplex printing technology. Because the systems use 100 percent of the toner, there is no waste, which also translates into no environmental impact.

“Increased sensitivity to environmental concerns is undoubtedly a growing priority among leading companies worldwide. The economy is becoming increasingly global, so no company can afford to ignore the environmental impact of its business, particularly when it is considered that efficient environmental management can, and often does, have positive impacts on the bottom line.”