Green Accuprint New Opportunity : Ink Ribbon Recycling

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Remanufacture (refill) of laser toner cartridges, inkjet cartridges and computer and cash register ribbons. Sales of new
OEM and compatible of these products as well as new paper roll for cash registers and debit/credit machines.A New GREEN Opportunity: Ribbon Recycling.

A new environmentally friendly process is emerging in the recycling arena: recycling printer ribbons. The United States and Canada has a billion dollar ribbon market, and 99% of the ribbons are tossed into landfills: eighty thousand tons of ribbon toxins every year or 1,500 tons a week. Stop and think about it. Ribbons are everywhere: computers in industry, the hard copy receipt given with every retail purchase, internal reports for large organizations, the banking ATM machines. Local distributors now even have printers in their trucks’. Yes, even though the non-impact printers are being used more for finished product printing, the number of printers (dot matrix and impact) requiring ribbons continues to grow. Ribbon recycling can eliminate hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic waste. Ribbon recycling is more environmentally friendly than most recycling processes, because the ribbons are reused rather than melted down and recycled into a new product. Moreover, this opportunity is available now and for decades to come.

How are Ribbons Recycled?

The two methods of ribbon recycling include:

Re inking – Ink is applied to the existing fabric. New electromagnetic machinery used along with improved inks work as a system to provide a uniform and even distribution of ink to the fabric. The entire ribbon is re-used with re inking.
Reloading – Replacing the fabric in the ribbon cartridge or spool. This method has been used most frequently in ribbon recycling. The plastic cartridge/gears/spool are re-used, but the fabric (the part with the most toxins) is still thrown away.
Using both of these recycling methods are recommended to take full advantage of the cost savings and reduction in waste. Ribbon users should first reink the ribbon until the fabric needs to be replaced, then reload the ribbon and begin the re inking process again.
Why haven’t I heard about ribbon recycling before?

Most Americans throw their ribbons away because they’ve never thought about recycling them and are unaware ribbon recycling services exist. According to a Gallup Poll, 93% of Americans are becoming environmentally conscious (Europeans see recycling as a way of life). Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Company reports 73% of all households in the US recycle regularly. It bothers people to throw their printer ribbons away. Why throw it away when all it needs is a little ink? After all, you don’t throw a plant away when it wilts, you water it. The public is not aware of the ability to recycle their printer ribbons. New machines have been developed to recycle printer ribbons, and some recycling companies are relying on the disabled and senior citizens for operations and distribution. In these cases, people who have been relying on social programs are now making a contribution and finding self worth. Recycling ribbons presents a new opportunity, offering a number of economic and social benefits which are green all around.
Can my ribbons be recycled? – If it’s fabric, 98% of the time the answer is YES!

Only fabric ribbons can be recycled. When you pick up a cartridge and inspect the ribbon, you can determine if it is fabric or plastic.Ribbons best suited for ribbon recycling are those from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer), including: Apple, Brother, DEC, Epson, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Okidata, Panasonic, etc. Some companies have been using generic ribbons to save money. However, generic ribbons (non OEM) cannot be recycled as often. The quality and engineering of generic ribbons in most cases are not up to the standards of the OEM ribbon. As a result the generic ribbon can neither be reinked nor reloaded as many times, because of substandard fabric, plastic cartridge and internal gears. It is recommended the users stay with the OEM ribbon for recycling purposes. It is common to reink an OEM ribbon many, many times, then reload it time and time again. Fabric ribbons are normally made of a nylon material. There are over 23,000 printer models requiring fabric ribbons, and 98% of them can be recycled. Fabric ribbons come in all shapes and sizes. The width of the fabric ranges from 3 of an inch to 12 inches. The length of fabric ranges from a few yards long to 150 yards long. Some are reel to reel spools. Most are held in a cartridge in a continuous loop that fan folds inside the cartridge. Most of the cartridges have gears within the cartridge and a thumb knob with which the user can manually advance the ribbon. A few types do not have gears but are open on one end of the cartridge relying on the printer to advance the ribbon. Wide line or towel ribbons are the ribbons 14 – 18 inches wide and are used on the mainframe printers. All of these fabric ribbons are candidates for recycling.
How many times can a ribbon be recycled?

The number of times a ribbon can be recycled varies among the types of ribbons. Some customers are still using the same ribbons bought years ago. It’s not uncommon for users of recycled ribbons to reink one ribbon 10 to 40 times. A ribbon reused just 10 times means 9 weren’t thrown away (90% reduction in ribbon waste). Five factors that can prolong the life of a ribbon are controlled by the user:
Use an original OEM ribbon; it is normally made of better materials.
Remove the ribbon from the printer when it first starts to fade, because a printer ribbon is like a sponge. While you can hammer a moist sponge all day long without harming it, a dry sponge will break up and fall apart. Similarly, when the user reinks the ribbon before it gets too dry, it will last much longer.
Don’t move the print head position toward the platen as the print starts to fade. Ink provides necessary lubricants to the print head. Using a dry ribbon is like driving a car without oil and will have the same detrimental effect to the print head.
Store ribbons upside down. Gravity will pull the ink down into the ribbon. Then when you mount the ribbon on the printer, gravity again will redistribute the ink. This helps keep the ribbon fresh.
Select the recycling service that provides a uniform inking application, offers the top of the line process and ink, and institutes the highest quality assurance.
It should be noted, some ribbons have exceeded their life. Recycling experience suggests 3% of the fabric ribbons received for recycling have reached the end of their use and reuse. The plastic in these ribbons then is ready for the plastic recycling factory.
How does this ribbon recycling work?

Rather than tossing your ribbons into the trash, simply toss the ribbon into a used ribbon box, like dirty laundry. When the box is filled with ribbons, they are distributed to the ribbon recycling company. Some organizations can take advantage of the recycling company’s pickup and delivery service; some can send the ribbons in; others can use their internal mail system in the distribution process. The ribbons are recycled to a like new condition, sealed in a poly-bag and returned like clean laundry.
What’s the Ribbon Recycling Potential?