OverviewLaser printers are commonplace in workplaces today. However, because printing is so easy and accessible, much paper is used unnecessarily - especially when the output is only printed on one side. Laser printers waste energy when not in use, and they pose disposal concerns because of the presence of lead in their circuit boards.
The proper equipment can help save paper. By using laser printers with a duplex function, office workers can easily print documents on both sides of the paper. Depending upon how frequently duplex units are used, a 10% to 40% reduction in paper use can result.
PurchasingThe act and the function of responsibility for the acquisition of equipment, materials, supplies, and services. In a narrow sense, the term describes the process of buying. In a broader sense, the term describes determining the need, selecting the supplier, arriving at a fair and reasonable price and terms, preparing the contract or purchase order, and following up to ensure timely delivery. extra paper trays allows offices to designate a tray for a certain type of paper, such as letterhead or colored paper. This can reduce the need to print documents on plain paper and then photocopy them onto the specialty paper. In some workplaces, paper that has been printed on only one side is set aside for reuseProducts or materials that, after serving their original function, can be used again in their present form; some are designed to be reused repeatedly, while others not specifically designed for reuse are creatively used to fill a need. as scratch paper or drafts of documents. A dedicated tray organizes reusable paper and makes it readily available to users, who can specify that tray in their software's print setup command.
Many printer manufacturers participate in the Energy Star® program, a voluntary leadership program established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. This program requires printers to have a power-management feature and establishes maximum energy consumption during "sleep" mode to save energy. This has even greater impact on energy use for offices in which printers are often left on overnight.
Leasing programs or purchase agreements that stipulate take-back of the printer when you no longer need it allow you to avoid managing the printer as waste. This puts the responsibility for safe management of toxic materials on those who provided the equipment. Depending upon the replacement schedule, your old printer could even have value for reuse.
Laws & GuidelinesMinnesota Statutes § 16B.122(c) states that "a public entity shall print documents on both sides of the paper where commonly accepted publishing practices allow." Printers with duplex features make it easier for government offices to meet this requirement.
Federal Executive Order 13123 directs federal agencies to select Energy Star® compliant products, including printers. State and local governments are encouraged to follow this direction for their printer purchases.
Duplexing complicates the path that paper must travel before coming out of the printer. This can have two effects. First, it slows down the output of the printer slightly, although the efficiency of models in duplexing mode will vary.
Second, the extra paper handling involved can potentially increase the risk of paper jams. However, if the printer is properly adjusted and good quality paper is used, this risk is minimal. Proper storage and handling of the paper also minimizes jams. (See Copy Paper for tips on preventing jams.)
With multiple paper choices, users need to decide which tray to select when they set up each print job. Setting up profiles in the user's software for different types of print jobs makes it easier to take advantage of the paper-saving potential of multiple trays. For example, a profile called "cover letter" can be set up to tell the printer to pull the first page from a dedicated letterhead tray and the remaining pages from the plain paper tray.
When using a dedicated tray for printing on reused paper, it is important to pay attention to paper quality. While most paper that is in good condition should go through the printer without jamming, paper that is in marginal condition, such as paper with folds, bends, dog-eared corners, or ripples, should probably not be used in a dedicated tray. This paper may instead be set aside for use in the manual feed tray or for scratch paper. Paper with staples should not be run through a printer.
The only difference in the performance of laser printers with sleep features is the few seconds it takes to "wake up" the machine from sleep mode. This is a small compromise for the benefits of saving energy and extending the life of the printer.
Typically, duplex units are available on higher-speed printers, such as those rated to print 12 or more sheets per minute, one-sided. Printers rated at 40 or more sheets per minute typically come with a duplex unit as standard.
Hundreds of laser printers have been certified as Energy Star® compliant.
Several national and local companies provide printer leasing services.
A growing number of computer equipment manufacturers and distributors are responding to the environmental and financial interests of their customers by offering to take the equipment back at the end of the service life. Currently, a limited but growing number of electronics processing companies in Minnesota offer local opportunities for computer equipment vendors to process equipment they take back.
Some of the higher-speed laser printers come with a duplex unit at no additional cost. It is expected that duplex units will become standard on an increasing share of models in the coming years. Adding a duplex unit as an accessory typically increases the cost of a laser printer by about 15% to 20% ($250 to $400 is common). However, any extra costs for a duplex unit should be balanced with savings in paper costs from regular use of this feature.
Most offices can see a reduction in paper purchase costs of 10% to 40% because of duplex printing. Even greater savings can be realized in postage and storage costs, since documents printed on both sides mean fewer sheets to mail, file, or store.
Higher-speed laser printers often have multiple paper trays as standard features, but additional trays can be added for $200 to $800, depending upon the features of the tray. Additional paper trays can be added to lower-speed printers, typically for about $100 to $200.
Energy Star® compliant printers save money by cutting energy costs, and typically cost no more to buy than comparable models without power-management features. Visit the Energy Star® site for a calculator to estimate energy cost savings for your office.
Leasing can offer financial benefits over outright purchasing, depending upon several factors - your organization's needs, the expected replacement or upgrade schedule for equipment, and the terms of the agreement with the leasing company. Leasing should also mean your organization does not have to budget for disposal costs or be concerned about environmental liabilities, because the leasing company maintains ownership of the equipment. However, interest rates for leasing may mean a higher initial cost compared to purchasing.
Take-back clauses may or may not save money overall. A vendor may seek to charge an up-front disposal fee or incorporate the cost of disposal or recycling in the purchase cost of the equipment. In some cases, there may be no difference in price. However, consider the cost your organization will face for proper disposal and recycling, and the cost of staff time to arrange for it, if your contract does not include a take-back requirement.
Specify higher-speed models that come with a duplex unit. Alternatively, specify a separate price in the bid solicitation for adding duplex units as an accessory in order to offer a choice of purchasing a printer with or without a duplex unit. Include language that requires the duplex unit to perform identically whether using recycled or non-recycled paper.
The Energy Star® program has published the Energy Star® Purchasing Tool Kit that offers sample procurement language for Energy Star® compliant printers, specifications for Energy Star® compliant printers, and other helpful pointers for purchasers. The Tool Kit is available by calling Energy Star® toll-free at 888/STAR-YES (888/782-7937). This information can also be found on the Energy Star® web site.
A general specification in the bid solicitation can be used to establish a requirement for Energy Star® compliance, such as the following:
"All printers must meet federal Energy Star® power consumption guidelines and be shipped with the Energy Star® functions enabled."
Take-back clauses in leasing or purchase agreements for laser printers can be simple statements that the vendor agrees to take back the printer at the end of its useful life, or at a specified date or output threshold (i.e., a specified number of images). The clause should require the vendor to certify that any components not reused will be processed to remove and recycle lead-bearing circuit boards - at a minimum. You may wish to include language that encourages recycling of metal and plastic components.
If prospective vendors are not aware of options for recovery and processing, you may direct them to the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance or county solid or hazardous waste offices (see Appendix C) for referrals to businesses in Minnesota and the surrounding area that perform these services. This may lead them to agree to take-back clauses in your agreement or contract.
Remanufactured Toner Cartridges
In response to the popularity of money-saving remanufactured toner cartridges, some laser printer manufacturers who sell replacement cartridges have issued warranty restrictions on their printers. These restrictions go into effect if used cartridges are not replaced with original equipment manufacturer's cartridges or new cartridges. This move appears to be a reaction to a loss of market share for accessories, rather than a significant history of remanufactured cartridges failing and causing mechanical damage to a printer.
The confidence in the quality of remanufactured cartridges has led many remanufacturers to offer guarantees on their cartridges to cover any damage to printers that can be attributed to a failed cartridge. However, this does not address the customer's warranty relationship with the printer manufacturer.
It is important that any bid solicitation for laser printers include a requirement that the printer warranty will not be voided in any way if remanufactured cartridges are used. This should assure that the manufacturer will not refuse to conduct repairs to a printer simply because a remanufactured cartridge is in the machine - particularly repairs that are unrelated to any problems a cartridge could possibly have caused.
VendorsMinnesota State Contracts
State contracts for computer equipment are now available. The contracts require that computer equipment including laser printers be Energy Star® compliant, and they include leasing opportunities. Be sure to verify that the printer you are selecting is Energy Star® compliant. See Cooperative Purchasing Venture for information on accessing the contracts listed below.
- C-405(5) Computers: Apple HW, SW, Maintenance
- C-809(5) Computers: Compaq HW, SW, Peripherals
- C-813(5) Computers: Comark HW, SW, Maintenance
- C-808(5) Computers: Gateway HW, SW, Maintenance
- C-705(5) Computers: Micron Personal
- C-738(5) Computers: Unisys HW, SW, Maintenance
- C-787(5) Computers: Omnitech
Cooperative Purchasing -
U.S. Communities Program
Many environmentally preferable computer equipment options are available through the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance, often with preferred pricing. Counties, cities and schools may join this program to access contracts with six national vendors that provide equipment sales, technical support, and repair services: Comark, CompUSA, Gateway, IBM, MicronPC, and Software Spectrum. See Cooperative Purchasing - U.S. Communities for information on this program, or visit the U.S. Communities web site.
Visit the Energy Star® web site to view a complete, up-to-date list of Energy Star® compliant printers.
Several of the larger national companies provide printer leasing services. To readily locate vendors on the Internet, use a search engine to look for "printer leasing" and "laser printer leasing." The Yellow Pages also provides local vendor options under "Computers."
Some of the larger leasing companies resell whole machines or components, or process obsolete equipment to recover lead and other materials. Some smaller vendors and local companies draw on the processing services of other companies; at least six electronics and computer processing companies in Minnesota use various methods to recover materials.
ResourcesMost printer companies have on-line product descriptions and, if they operate an on-line store, pricing information as well.
Conserves EnergyLook for models that are certified as Energy Star® compliant printers. They can cut energy use more than 65%.
Prevents WasteChoose printers with duplex units to save paper. Consider adding extra paper trays that can be dedicated to printing directly onto specialty papers, like letterhead, or for printing draft documents on the blank side of used paper.
End of Life ManagementKeep lead and other heavy metals out of the environment. Leasing or take-back agreements that stipulate acceptable recycling or disposal practices can assure environmentally responsible management doesn't become a last-minute hassle.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide published by the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board, 4/00. The SWMCB includes members from the Minnesota metropolitan counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington, with ex-officio members from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.Last Revised February 8, 2013 - 10:59am