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Recycling Procurement Program

Laser Toner Cartridges

Origination Date: April 28, 1998
Revision Date:  

In just a few short years, the laser toner cartridge recharging industry has emerged to aggressively offer a cost-competitive remanufactured product. In Wisconsin, state agencies are buying recharged cartridges through a sheltered work center contract, as well as a variety of local vendors. Enthusiasm for and satisfaction with recharged toner cartridges varies from agency to agency, despite the dollar savings. Differences in quality and performance have been great enough that the state still encourages agencies to choose whether or not they use the remanufactured product.

Recharged toner cartridge acceptance is complicated by the fact that the equipment manufacturers actively discourage their use. Hewlett-Packard and Canon, for example, maintain that their cartridges were not engineered to be re-used, and therefore shouldn’t be. In response to the issue of landfilling cartridges, manufacturers have various programs for returning the cartridges for proper disposal.

In 1997, Wisconsin surveyed approximately 40 recharged toner cartridge companies. We asked if they were aware of any standard performance specification in use. Our search revealed one specification that had been drafted by the Department of Defense. We then learned that the specification had not actually been included in a bid yet, so it is difficult to judge its usefulness. Most of the survey respondents supplied a detailed description of their recharging process, and all backed up their product with guarantees of satisfaction. Based on the information we received, it was not possible to write a generic performance based bid specification, and any attempt to write detailed process requirements seems likely to be unfairly restrictive.

The reality is that some agencies are experimenting until they find a vendor they like, and others are no longer interested. Given the growth in this industry, the current marketing approach must be working. Further development of formal specifications really depends on identifying reliable performance standards.

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