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An investigation into remanufactured toner cartridges versus OEM Cartridges Radoicic, Nikola; Singh, Gursimran; Marsh, Riley; Kapoor, Shruti 2013-11-28

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 UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student ReportGursimran Singh, Nikola Radoicic, Riley Marsh, Shruti KapoorAn Investigation into Remanufactured TonerCartridges versus OEM CartridgesAPSC 261November 28, 20139801496University of British Columbia Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”.  An Investigation into Remanufactured TonerCartridges versus OEM CartridgesNikola Radoicic Gursimran Singh Riley Marsh Shruti Kapoor1AbstractThis report uses the triple bottom line analysis to compare OEM and re-manufactured toner cartridges. The companies used in the comparison torepresent remanufactured cartridges are Digitech and Laser Valley. Hewlett-Packard represents the OEM cartridges. These companies were selected be-cause many departments on UBC campus currently purchase from them.In order to analyze the social impact, we used a survey to determine ifthere was an actual quality difference in between OEM and remanufacturedcartridges. Customer service, local impact and the ease of maintenance werealso considered. For the environmental impact, a comparison of recyclingpractices, packaging materials, and shipping methods was conducted. Theeconomic component was determined based off of initial price, shipping fees,and recycling costs.The results of the triple bottom line analysis recommend Digitech as thecompany with which UBC should be doing business.2Contents1 Introduction 62 Methods of Toner Recycling 73 Stakeholders 84 The Current Status of Printers at UBC 94.1 Recycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94.2 Printer Manufacturers and Toner Suppliers . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Social 115.1 Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125.1.1 Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125.1.2 Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135.1.3 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145.2 Build Quality & Shipping Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155.2.1 HP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165.2.2 Recycled Cartridges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165.3 Community Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 Economic 196.1 Initial Cost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196.2 Costs Related to Consumption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206.3 Recycling Fee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216.4 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227 Environmental 227.1 Recycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237.2 Shipping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247.3 Packaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257.4 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258 Conclusion 263List of Figures1 Toner Quality Survey Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144List of Tables1 Initial Average Cost Savings per Cartridge . . . . . . . . . . . . 2051 IntroductionThe UBC Vancouver campus has roughly 40,000 students and 15,000 facultyand staff members [16]. Much of the work done on campus still happens onhard copies which are printed at UBC. Unfortunately, there is no departmentat UBC that regulates the sale and consumption of printers and supplies oncampus. As a result, each faculty and staff member manages their own tonerpurchasing. The purpose of our analysis is to analyse how UBC could mosteffectively replace spent toner cartridges by looking at the social, economic,environmental impacts (known as a triple bottom line analysis). We will thenmake an appropriate recommendation on how UBC can optimize their tonerfilling according to the triple bottom line analysis.62 Methods of Toner RecyclingToner cartridges can be recycled in three different ways. New cartridges canbe ordered directly through the manufacturer (referred to as OEM cartridges),and expended toner cartridges can be sent back to the manufacturer providedthey have an established recycling program. Almost all of the printer man-ufacturers used on campus, including HP, Brother, and Xerox, have a tonercartridge collection / recycling programs in place [8][1][3]. Aside from themanufacturer, used cartridges can be recycled and replaced through a thirdparty service. The replacement cartridges are either compatible cartridges(cartridges which have been manufactured from raw material to mimic OEMcartridges), or they are remanufactured cartridges (cartridges that are assem-bled from from other recycled cartridge parts). Printer warranties specify thatthe outside chassis (referred to as the shell or body) must be made by themanufacturer otherwise the warranty of the printer is void. Remanufacturedprinters use the same shell as an OEM cartridge meaning the warranty of theprinter is intact. However, compatible cartridges are made from newly madeparts by a third party, and therefore void the warranty of some printers. Thelegality of compatible cartridges is still in question, since they may be infring-ing on the patents of the manufacturer[13][12]. Due to the associated legalissues, we did not include them in our analysis.73 StakeholdersThe decision to recommend a specific toner recycling vendor indirectly affectsthe entire UBC community; much of UBCs students, staff, and faculty relyon their departments for printing documents. These groups depend on thequality of the toner to stay consistent over time. Students will also care thatthe cartridges are economically optimized, since they are the ones who arecontributing to the purchase of new supplies. The toner recycling processcan also have an effect on local businesses, since some of the toner recyclingvendors, such as Digitech and LaserValley Technologies, are based out of thelower-mainland and rely on local services and companies for support.84 The Current Status of Printers at UBC4.1 RecyclingThere is currently no governing body at UBC which organizes and facilitatesthe collection, storage, shipping, receiving, and maintenance of toner cartridgeson campus. Some departments, such as Electrical and Computer Engineering,Mechanical Engineering, and the Food, Nutrition and Health program havesome departmental organization to facilitate this. Many of the humanities (in-cluding History, Political Science, English, and Philosophy) do not have a cen-tral system for handling toner cartridges. Instead, these departments chooseto have faculty members replace and optionally recycle old toner cartridges ontheir own accord.The faculties that did recycle the cartridges, primarily ordered from twocompanies: Digitech and Laser Valley Technologies. Both companies are lo-cated in the Greater Vancouver area. Laser Valley Technologies sells OEM,compatible and remanufactured cartridges, while Digitech sells only remanu-factured cartridges.94.2 Printer Manufacturers and Toner SuppliersThe distribution on campus is very uneven; roughly 88% of the printers usedon campus are Hewlett Packard (HP). The remaining 12% is split betweenBrother and Xerox. For our analysis, we focused on HP as our OEM recyclingcandidate, since it would have the biggest impact on the campus results and itwould have been outside the scope of this report to suggest improvements thatinvolve the purchasing of new printers for the various departments. To ensurecompleteness, our analysis involved a comparison between HP, Digitech, andLaser Valley, the main toner cartridge suppliers used by UBC.105 SocialThe analysis of social impact is primarily concerned with how the toner re-cycling decision will directly affect the stakeholders. During our survey, thecampus stakeholders (students, staff, and faculty) had concerns that the printquality of recycled cartridges would be worse than that of an OEM cartridge.Common issues raised were that pages would be more faded, smudgy, or mis-aligned. Our analysis showed that this is a misconception and that there is nodiscernable difference in quality between pages that are printed with an OEMcartridge to that of compatible and remanufactured cartridges. The quality ofthe cartridges can also include how often they break down and need to be re-placed. The campus staff that maintatains the printers has stated that there isno difference in maintenance and repair between OEM cartridges and recycledcartridges.The second way that the decision could impact the stakeholders is by af-fecting the non-campus community. Depending on the cartridge replacementmethod, UBC could choose to support local businesses to a greater or lesserdegree. We found that Digitech encouraged the use of local businesses andsuppliers more than HP and Laser Valley. Though both of the companies arelocal businesses themselves, Digitech is very transparent about the fact thatthey will use local suppliers whenever able.115.1 QualityCartridge quality can be understood by looking at 2 different metrics: the qual-ity of the pages it prints (print quality), and the durability of the cartridgeitself (build quality). To determine the quality of the pages, we surveyed 130students, staff, and faculty to determine if there was a difference in perceivedquality of the pages. To determine the build quality, we spoke to the UBCstaff that regularly perform printer maintenance and order replacements. Af-ter speaking to David Chu Chong (the Electrical and Computer EngineeringStorekeeper and Departmental Buyer) as well as Perry Yabuno (Mechanicalengineering Storekeeper), we have concluded that the cartridge shipping, re-ceiving, replacement process of Digitek and Laser Valley is slightly preferedto that of an OEM, but negligibly different and should not affect the finaldecision.5.1.1 MethodTo determine the quality of the printed pages, we printed the same standardtest page, containing text and images, on two HP M451DN printers. One ofthe printers was filled with OEM toner from HP while the other was filled byDigitek. We asked 130 faculty, staff, and students to pick a statement whichbest describes their perception of the two pages:.121. Page A is strongly prefered to Page B.2. Page A is prefered to Page B.3. Page A is slightly prefered to Page B.4. Both pages look the same.5. Page B is slightly prefered to Page B.6. Page B is prefered to Page B.7. Page B is strongly prefered to Page B.We printed a second set of sample pages which were both from the OEMcartridge as a control for our survey. The survey was made double-blind toavoid an influence from the questioner.5.1.2 MethodOf the 130 students asked, an overwhelming 107 participants (82.30%) did notsee a difference between Page A (printed using an OEM cartridge) and PageB (using a remanufactured cartridge). Of the 17.69% of participants who didnot pick this response, all but 3 participants (15.38%) indicated that one ofthe pages was slightly prefered. For the control question of our survey, 11.53%of people, slightly prefered page A to page B even though they were printedfrom the same printer using the same cartridge. The similarities indicate that13Figure 1: Toner Quality Survey Distributionthe slight preference is negligibly different and should not be seen as differencein preference.5.1.3 ResultsOf the 130 students asked, an overwhelming 107 participants (82.30%) did notsee a difference between Page A and Page B [1]. Of the 17.69% of participantswho did not pick this response, all but 3 participants (15.38%) indicated thatone of the pages was slightly prefered. For the control question of our survey,11.53% of people, slightly prefered page A to page B even though they wereprinted from the same printer using the same cartridge. The similarities indi-cate that the slight preference is negligibly different and should not be seen as14difference in preference.Despite the large number of participants, this survey is small since only oneof each cartridge type was used. By only getting samples from two printers,we are not thoroughly testing mechanical issues that could arise from usingrecycled cartridges which affect alignment. Remanufactured cartridges usemoving parts from recycled cartridges that could be worn or damaged in theprocess [2]. To test for this properly would require testing several cartridgeson a wide variety of printers which was infeasible for an analysis of this scale.Digitechs internal testing claims that they have a return rate, mostly due tosimilar mechanical issues, of only 4% which they claim is lower than industry,thought we could not confirm this fact [2]. This helps to address the missinginformation in our study.5.2 Build Quality & Shipping ProcessEach cartridge replacement method has a different set of procedures to acquire,ship, receive, and install cartridges. The effectiveness of these processes isimportant for the staff that will be maintaining the printers on campus. Weinvestigated the steps involved for filling cartridges through HP, Digitech, andLaser Valley. To ensure that we accurately represented our stakeholders, wemade sure to talk to staff at UBC who have installed both remanufactured15cartridges as well as OEM cartridges. We spoke with David Chu Chong (theElectrical and Computer Engineering Storekeeper and Departmental Buyer) aswell as Perry Yabuno. They provided additional insight as to which cartridgereplacement method was prefered. While they did not have a strong preferenceto which method was used, both of them preferred a recycled cartridge ratherthan to use an OEM, and added that they would prefer to use only one type.5.2.1 HPHP has made the recycling of their cartridges easy and requires little work forthose who maintain them. They provide prepaid and pre-addressed envelopes,labels and bulk collection boxes for cartridge collection [17]. Cartridges canalso deposited at approved retail stores including Staples of which there is oneon campus [17]. Since the cartridges are they provide are OEM, compatibilityand ease of installation are also not concerns since the product was designedby the manufacturer.5.2.2 Recycled CartridgesThe process for recycling cartridges is slightly more involved. Both Digitechand Laser Valley pick-up old cartridges from their clients. Though Digitechoffers free next-day pick-up of old cartridges, they are more particular withregard to packaging and labeling. This is due to their effort to reduce packaging16waste by recycling the boxes. The added time means that it takes a bit longerto replace and package the older cartridges. Despite this, Dave Chong assuredus that the difference is entirely negligible between the two methods [15]. Thepick-up service provides added convenience for the IT staff as well.5.3 Community ImpactAll three companies have very different methodologies with regard to theirbusiness practices. HP is a large american multinational corporation. Dueto their size, they have suppliers that can scale to the level of the demandthey receive. As a result, there is little room to help smaller and more localbusinesses. One way they have managed to help communities, is by partneringwith Staples which has local branches within the community. Printer cartridgescan be dropped-off at any Staples location to be recycled.Laser Valley is also more tailored for big business to use efficiently. Theprice and perceived quality of the toner seems to be their greatest sellingpoint, and are far more secretive about their recycling methodologies. Whenwe contacted them to learn about their suppliers, they were uncooperative andunforthcoming about their process.Digitech is very focused on community involvement and open about theirmethodologies. ”Wherever possible, we try and use a local supplier or business17to meet our needs”, says Dave McConachie, the President at Digitech. Theyare clear about their recycling process from start to finish, and are commu-nicative and helpful. This also speaks to Digitechs superior customer service,which also impacts the stakeholders that must communicate with the com-pany. Both Digitech and LaserValley are local companies, which means thatsupporting either of them is helping the community.186 EconomicAn important component of the triple bottom line analysis is the economicimpact. In the case of toner cartridges, using remanufactured toner cartridgescan introduce savings. However, since there is no standard for toner cartridgeremanufacturing, there is significant variation between costs due to the varietyof methods used [11]. The various remanufacturing costs are reflected in theprice of the good. This is why it is essential to include more than one companythat produces remanufactured toner cartridges. In order to determine themost cost efficient cartridge type, we conducted an analysis comparing HPOEM, Digitech remanufactured and Laser Valley remanufactured cartridges.These companies are the main suppliers of toner cartridges on UBC campus asreported by the purchasing teams of various departments around campus[6].6.1 Initial CostThe most obvious cost associated with toner cartridges is the initial priceof the product. To compare the prices from each company, we selected 15printers commonly used at UBC and compared the price of the required tonercartridges from each company[5][7][6]. The analysis included regular and highyield black toner cartridges. For each cartridge type, the percent differencebetween each of the three companies was determined. The percent difference19Table 1: Initial Average Cost Savings per CartridgeDigitech vs HP Laser Valley vs HP Laser Valley vs Digitech28.61% 31.84% 10.14%Table comparing the relative cost of toner cartridges from the three manufacturers.normalizes the fact that each cartridge is not in the same price bracket, whichhelps reduce extraneous price differences between cartridges. The averagepercent differences between companies are reported in the table below; eachcolumn shows the cheaper option compared to the more expensive option. Forexample, the column of Digitech vs HP means that Digitech is 28.61% lessexpensive on average than HP when purchasing a cartridge.It is also important to keep in mind the small associated costs of orderingand disposing of toner cartridges, such as shipping. HP ships their client’sorder from a centralized distribution center and their cost of shipping is de-pendent on quantity ordered and distance travelled. On the other hand, LaserValley charges a flat delivery rate of two dollars regardless of order size[6].Digitech delivers their printer cartridges for free with no minimum order[4].6.2 Costs Related to ConsumptionOther costs often associated with goods are related to the number of printedpages per cartridge (yield), and the rate of replacement. In the case of toner20cartridges, yield is consistent between OEM and remanufactured cartridges.This is because when the cartridges are remanufactured, the OEM case isreused[11]. Within the case, there is a finite volume available for toner that isfilled to capacity. Therefore, each remanufactured toner cartridge will be ableto yield the same number of pages as the OEM version. Regarding the rateof replacement, the cartridges will need to be replaced at the same frequencybecause they have the same yield. However, if the cartridge fails it will ob-viously need to be replace sooner. The only exact success rate provided wasfrom Digitech with a value of 96%[11]. This is very similar to the high successrate of HP OEM cartridges. There is no information provided for the LaserValley. We are assuming there is no noticeable difference in success rates, andtherefore replacement frequency between the companies is the same.6.3 Recycling FeeAnother cost often associated with toner cartridges is a recycling fee or aninitial deposit that is repaid when the cartridge is returned to the manufac-turer. Although all of the companies have a recycling program, there are nofees or rebates associated with them. Laser Valley and Digitech both pick upempty toner cartridges free of charge[6][11]. However, to participate in the HPPlanet Partners recycling program, the cartridges need to be dropped off at21a specified location or mailed to HP[8]. The transportation of the cartridgescould incur small costs.6.4 ResultsDue to the information gathered, Laser Valley is the most economic tonercartridge option, due to several reasons. Most noticeably, it had the cheapestinitial cost of toner cartridges. While it tied with Digitech in cost savings fromempty cartridge pick up, Laser Valley charges a delivery fee unlike Digitech.However, in comparison the the cost of a typical order the two dollar fee isnegligible. For example a typical order from the Electrical and ComputerEngineering Department is approximately $270 [6]. Additionally, the 10.14%savings of Laser Valley compared to Digitech outweighs the small delivery fee.In light of this analysis, Laser Valley is the most inexpensive toner cartridgeprovider of the three companies followed closely by Digitech.7 EnvironmentalApproximately 375 million ink and toner cartridges thrown out every year[14].However, remanufacturing toner cartridges offers significant environmentalbenefits by reusing resources and reducing solid waste that is sent to land-fill and incineration. One of the best solutions to reduce environmental health22impacts from toner and ink production are to reduce the volume of cartridgessent to the garbage utilizing either a recycling or remanufacturing system. Assuch the environmental impact of UBCs toner provider can have a huge effect.7.1 RecyclingAll three of the analyzed companies implement a recycling system. Digitechreuses the components of recycled toner cartridges [11]. After disassembling,cleaning, and inspecting cartridge parts, the components in good condition arereassembled into a cartridge. This remanufactured cartridge is then refilled andtested at least four times before being ready for market. Leftover toner cannotbe disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. The toner that stays atthe bottom of cartridges is often burned by other recycling plants which is notecologically sound. Digitech sends this residue to a company in California thatuses this material to build speed bumps [11]. This way none of the cartridgesrecycled through Digitech end up in a landfill. HP also has a recycling programcalled HP Planet Partners [14]. It does not reuse any cartridge components;rather, old cartridge parts are combined with plastic water bottles to becomeraw material for new OEM cartridges. As a result, HP cartridges are madefrom approximately 70% recycled material. This ”closed loop” system meanthat no cartridges returned to HP enter landfills [14]. Laser Valley states they23have a recycling program; however, they were not transparent regarding theirmethod. They do have a Green Seal certification that a third party grantedafter paying a fee.7.2 ShippingThe way that the cartridges are sent from client to manufacturer and backalso adds to the environmental impact and varies from company to company.The pickup / delivery method can be controlled by the company itself (as isthe case with Digitech and Laser Valley), or it can be shipped using a thirdparty which may be left up to the client. Since HP relies on conventional mailto receive expended cartridges, the environmental shipping cost would dependon the mail carrier. While Canada Post has become ecologically mindful overthe past few years [2], the journey of the package relies on other servicesand businesses which vary and are undeterminable. Unlike HP, Laser Valleyand Digitech arrange for pick-ups themselves, which means they can controlthe method by which cartridges get delivered. Digitech exclusively uses fuel-efficient hybrid cars [11] as opposed to Laser Valley which does not have anopen policy regarding the vehicles used.247.3 PackagingAnother wasteful component of ordering cartridges is the packaging they aresent and arrive in. Both Digitech and Laser Valley use re-usable recyclablepackaging to ensure that as little packaging is wasted. To use the old box, theysimply place a sticker over the sticker of an existing box. This process necessi-tates that the clients keep good care of the boxes, but when done successfullyalmost entirely eliminates the waste caused by excessive packaging: ”We stillhave boxes from our first year of production” says Dave of Digitech[11]. HP,however, uses new packages, though they are made from mostly recycled ma-terial. Both solutions help reduce the carbon footprint of the packaging, butthe eliminated waste of the recycled toner companies makes it the preferedmethod of packaging, and the one we would recommend for use at UBC.7.4 ResultsWith regards to the environmental impact, Digitech is the most responsiblecompany. They have a recycling policy that creates zero waste and has aminimal waste packaging system. The shipping also has a smaller impact onthe environment due to the low emission vehicle used.258 ConclusionOur analysis into toner cartridge replacement methods has shown that accord-ing to the Social, Economic, and Environmental aspects, Digitech providesthe most agreeable solution for UBCs needs. Both Digitech and LaserVal-ley are prefered over buying OEM cartridges from the manufacturer. Whilethe economic analysis was slightly in favor of Laser Valley, their lack of envi-ronmental transparency coupled with Digitechs community involvement andcustomer service make Digitech the prefered toner replacement method.References[1] Brother International Corporation. Toner and ink cartridge collec-tion and recycling. Accessed: 2013.[2] Canada Post Corporation. Social responsibility., 2013. Accessed: 2013.[3] Xerox Corporation. Xerox green world alliance. Accessed: 2013.[4] Digitech. Next day delivery. Accessed: 2013.[5] Digitech. Online catalogue - HP. Accessed: 2013.[6] Kristi Henriksen. personal communication, November 2013.[7] Hewlett-Packard. HP store checkout. Accessed: 2013.[8] Hewlett-Packard. HP supplies recycling. Accessed: 2013.26[9] Hewlett-Packard. Ink, toner and paper. Accessed: 2013.[10] Hewlett-Packard. HP planet partners program.,2013. Accessed: 2013.[11] Dave McConachie. personal communication, October 2013.[12] Dan Prochilo. Canon wins ITC ban on toner car-tridge imports. Accessed:2013.[13] Dan Prochilo. HP settles inkjet cartridge patent complaints., March2010.[14] A Greener Refill. Environmental benefits: Reuse and recy-cling ink and toner cartridges., 2013. Accessed: 2013.[15] David Chu Chong ECE Storekeeper and Departmental Buyer. personalcommunication, October 2013.[16] UBC. Ubc facts and figures., 2013. Accessed: 2013.[17] Jason Wu. personal communication, October 2013.27


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