This month we celebrate Earth Day, a day that asks all of us to think about sustainability and how we can lessen our impact on environment. The product choices we make, both at home and work, are very important. Have you ever take a minute to think about the effect printer ink can have on the environment? In all honesty, it has a toxic effect! The environmental impact associated with using your inkjet printer and the ink needed to print with are real. But, there’s good news, there are ways to help avoid the damaging effects printer ink can have.
Printer ink uses bio-derived renewable raw materials. This is just a fancy way of saying to produce printer ink we need to use materials that occur in nature. Given the proper amount of time these materials will reproduce themselves and we should have an endless supply. I stress the word “should” because in order to produce pritner ink (and other products) we harvest the naturally occuring materials at a rate that exceeds their ability to naturally renew themselves. We’re depleting our natural resources and giving no opportunity for repleneshment.
Petroleum (crude oil) is the most common component in printer ink. The majority of printer inks are petroleum based, and are thus not considered to be environmentally friendly. Petroleum is one natural resource that is being consumed at a rate that exceeds the rate nature can produce it, thus damaging the environment. Petroleum based inks relase Volatile Organic Compunds (VOC’s) in to the atmosphere. VOC’s are gasses that contain harmful chemicals which cause netative health effects. They are released in to the air as the printer ink dries on to paper.
Printer inks also have a high heavy metal (arsenic, cadmuim, chromium, mercury, lead, zinc) content. These damaging metals end up in our soil when printed pages end up in landfills. Printer inks absorb in to the paper they are printed on. When printed pages end up in landfills the paper decomposes and the heavy metals are released in the soil. Once in the soil there are many ways that the metals are damaging to the environment.
The good news is that the negative environmental impacts caused by printer ink can be minimized or avoided. There are alternatives to petroleum based inks. Soy or vegetable based inks are made from renewable materials with a maintainable repleneshment rate (there are also some environmental impacts here, but that’s another discussion). These inks have a VOC percentage of less than 5%.