UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into remanufactured toner cartridges vs. OEM cartridges Chung, Jui Feng; Liao, Hao Chun; Song, Yilun; Yu, Trevor


Across the University of British Columbia (UBC) toner cartridges are utilized by over 16,000 faculty and staff in over 400 departments. The sheer amount of toner cartridges on campus plays a major role on the economy and has a huge impact on the environment. As a leader in sustainability, UBC wants to perform a detailed analysis on the type of toner cartridge that would contribute the most to a sustainable future. The two main choices for toner cartridges are Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges and remanufactured cartridges. Throughout the analysis, each cartridge was compared based on its economic, environmental, and social impacts. This paper utilizes a wide range of primary and secondary sources. The primary sources came in the form of a departmental survey and a discussion with a representative from Digitech (a local cartridge remanufacturer currently partnered with UBC). The secondary sources came through online databases such as Google Scholar and the UBC library databases, including both peer-reviewed articles and online websites. The triple bottom line analysis was utilized in this report to determine the recommended cartridge. In addition to the sources, there were several constraints and assumptions made regarding the usage of toner cartridges on campus. One of these assumptions was made while analyzing the survey. The survey yielded only 11 out of the 400 university departments responses as many departments were either unwilling or too preoccupied to respond. However, the departments surveyed were arbitrarily chosen, allowing for an assumption to be made that the responses were an accurate representation of the entire campus. Another assumption made was during the research and discussion of secondary sources. Peer-reviewed sources were assumed to be unbiased, while non-peer-reviewed sources (e.g. an article from HP - an OEM company) were assumed to be biased. To help evaluate the more sustainable cartridge, this paper uses various indicators for economic, environmental, social impacts. For economic comparisons, the total cost of remanufactured cartridges was found to be cheaper than the total cost of OEM cartridges. The environmental comparison showed that remanufactured cartridges have a lower toll on the environment than OEM cartridges. And in the social comparison, it was found that there was no noticeable difference in quality between remanufactured and OEM cartridges. However, the use of remanufactured cartridges can potentially increase sustainability awareness and the possibility of new job opportunities. Based on the findings in this report, it is recommended that remanufactured cartridges be implemented. In addition, it was found that many departments across campus are in a contract with Xerox, a cartridge remanufacturing firm. Through the course of this analysis, details about the contract with Xerox were not found, thus placing restrictions on the types of recommendations made. With the existence of this contract, several criteria were developed for future and existing contracts to ensure the sustainable usage of toner cartridges on campus. These criteria are the following: the company must supply remanufactured cartridges, the company must be local to the Lower Mainland, and the contract should involve the majority of the university departments. By following these criteria, UBC can be sure that the sustainable usage of toner cartridges on campus. 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.”

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