Product definition

The printers are part of SHA in the collection of WEEE. Consumer printers include two main printing technologies:
– Laser printers: These printers use a laser that polarize a drum according to data to print. The drum then capture ink particles at the toner (toner tanks). The drum then comes into contact with the paper also polarized, and the ink will be deposited from the drum on the paper (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Diagram of a laser printer

These printers have high printing speed. They are sometimes bulky. Furthermore, due to their high acquisition cost, they target mostly at the professional market.

– The inkjet printers: These printers rely on for their liquid ink. A print head performed scans and deposit fine droplets of ink on the printing substrate while it moves. In the inkjet printer, ink is stored in several cartridges (one for black ink, for several for colors ink). These cartridges are include directly into the print head (see Figure 2). Among inkjet printers there are continuous inkjet (CIJ: Contiunous inkjet) and those of type drop on demand (DOD: drop on demand).

Figure 2: Diagram of an inkjet printer

The inkjet printers provide quality prints near photographic quality.
The major subassemblies of a inkjet printer are:
– The housing
– The electronic card
– The printheads
– The loading paper system
For the following we consider mainly the inkjet printers. These products are the most sold products on the consumer market.

Composition of an inkjet printer

Figure 3: Composition of an inkjet printer (Jason O. – 2005)

Current fleet

Figure 4: Evolution of household printer sales in France (Source: GfK)

Although relatively constant evolution since 2003 printer sales have experienced a downturn in 2009.
Increasingly today’s inkjet printers are multifunction printers. These products incorporate a scanner and a printer. These printers represent almost 70% of sales of printers (GFK data).

Depollution and recycling of the product

Depollution / pre-treatment

Toners and ink cartridges are the elements that are part of the items to be removed during the depollution phase of printers. The removal of these components is first derived from the need not to disperse in the environment or toner powders residually present in the cartridges.
Subsequently these cartridges can be remanufactured. Again filled with ink, they can be reused, thus contributing to the reuse of waste from printer consumables.
Depending to the treatment facilities, power cables can also be removed from the printer during this phase of depollution.

Treatment / Recycling

The printers are then crushed with the rest of the SHA. After grinding to a first burst open and printers. A phase of manual sorting can then put aside as the solid elements of the guide rails of the printheads. The massive metal parts can damage the crusher in which the printers are then crushed to separate the various recyclable materials.

Components / materialsTreatment system
Ferrous metalsSteel work
PlasticsExtrusion, Plastics industries
AluminiumMetals recycler
CopperMetals recycler

Table 1: Ways of processing of materials from printers

Proposed improvement plan

The table below provides some ideas to improve the recycling of WEEE. These ideas are from studies on the recycling of some products and difficulties encountered by treatment operators responsible for the treatment of WEEE. These areas for improvement can initiate a deeper reflection from producers. However, each product has its specificities and a number of other constraints to fulfill.

Encountered difficultiesImpact for recyclingEco design opportunities
For depollution and pre-treatment
Presence of ink cartridges and toners in printers.These parts that should be removed are not always easily accessible (location in the product, tools needed for the extraction of cartridges).Permit removal of toner and cartridges from printers when it is off (without power) and without tools.
Identify the location of cartridges and toners in products, and the steps required to remove these parts.
Presence of a residual quantity of ink in the cartridges / toners of discarded products.The substances used in the ink formulation can be harmful nature, while the cartridges themselves are compatible with the recycling of printers.Reduce the amount of residual ink may remain at the end of life in the Product.
Use inks that do not contain hazardous chemicals.
Presence of heavy metals, azo dyes or nanomaterials in laser print cartridges.These substances can have harmful effects on people (operators) in contact with these substances.Reduce use of hazardous substances.
Substitute substances of greatest concern.
For recycling
Printers sometimes include parts (or subassemblies) that can be massive (e.g. guiding tracks of printheads).These parts can damage the shredders especially in the case of thick metal pieces.Facilitate the removal of parts and subassemblies massive, before the grinding of printers.
Avoid the use of massive pieces by acting on the materials characteristics or the shape of the parts.
Variety of plastics used.Once separated from metals, plastics must be sorted for recycling.Prefer clear color plastic, easier to sort.
Mark plastic parts according to ISO 1043 and ISO 11469.
Use plastic compatible with each other during recycling.
Presence of PCBs.Depending on their size these cards must be removed (if > 10cm²).Mechanically fix the electrical elements to facilitate their removal during recycling.
For reuse, remploy
Presence of wear parts (e. g. drive belt from the printhead).
Presence of parts that limit the overall lifespan of the product.
Reuse of product limited by :
- The availability of spare parts.
- The cost of spare parts or repair compared to the product's value.
Facilitate the replacement of wear parts on the product.
Ensure availability of spare / wear parts.
Ensure operation which limits the need of complex maintenance (not accessible to a user).
The use of consumables (ink cartridges) specific to model (or group of models) and to each manufacturer.Reuse of a printer depends on the availability of consumables on the market.Standardize consumables from products, brands to another.
Reduce the amount of waste generated by consumables:
- Refillable ink cartridges.
- Integration of an ink reservoir in the printhead.
- Solid ink.
Endure backward compatibility of consumables.


Life Cycle Inventory for an Inkjet Printer. Jason Ord et Tom DiCorcia – 2005

– Printing techniques of digitized images. Jean-Jacques ELTGEN – 1992 – french

– Guide des tendances des marchés informatiques 2007-2008 – GFK

Updated on November 27, 2016

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