From Toner to Tarmac
Author: Ryan Collins
The last thing you'd expect to do after putting used printer cartridges into a ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' box is to drive over them. But that's exactly what you could do due to the development of a new product that turns residual toner into road surface. What's more, the recycled material, which is being rolled out in streets around Australia right now, makes road surfaces stronger and reduces their carbon emissions.
TonerPave™ has been created by Close the Loop®, Australia's largest printer cartridge recycling company, and Downer, a leading provider of engineering and infrastructure management services, who use recycled cartridges predominantly from the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' program for the asphalt.
HOW IT'S DONE
Old cartridges are shredded to separate raw materials for reuse. The toner powder is then further refined to make an additive called Modified Toner Polymer (MTP), which helps improve the performance of the asphalt, potentially leading to lower whole-of-life costs. Recycled toner from printer cartridges is well suited to asphalt because toner powder predominantly consists of small particles of very high-grade engineering plastics. These same plastics are commonly used to modify bituminous binders for asphalt roads.
The lucky street to be the first recipient of this great invention is Packington Court in Stockland's Highlands Estate, a residential development in Craigieburn, 35 kilometres north of Melbourne, which has recently been laid with the product!
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
Millions of printer cartridges reach the end of their life in Australia every year and, if they are sent to landfill, they can take between 450 to 1000 years to break down. By recycling them through ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark', the valuable resources they contain are kept out of landfill and can be put to new uses.
If cartridges end up in landfill, they slowly break apart and toner or ink has the potential to contaminate groundwater and eventually larger waterways, so let's face it - with a free, easily accessible and responsible way to recycle them into new products, recycling them really is the only way to go.
As well as toner powder, printer cartridges contain valuable materials such as ferrous metal, stainless steel, aluminium, ink, and many types of plastics, all of which can all be recycled.
Over 24 million cartridges, equivalent to 11,000 tonnes of plastics, metals, inks and toners, have been recycled since the program began in 2003, and with your help, we're hoping to reach 28 million this year!
Recycling your old printer cartridges with ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' is easy, free, convenient, independently audited and coordinated through a network of over 30,000 locations nationwide.
Printer cartridges can easily be dropped off for recycling in ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' collection boxes, located at all Officeworks and JB Hi-Fi stores and participating Australia Post, Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, The Good Guys and Office National outlets.
Participating manufacturers Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera have partnered with Planet Ark to collectively ensure the responsible recycling of their ink, laser cartridges, toner bottles and other items.
Note: Tarmac is a type of road surfacing material patented by Edgar Purnell Hooley in 1901. Asphalt is now used to make roads.