Charities and companies have accused printer manufacturers of ignoring recycling and global issues in the interest of making huge profits.
As Canon won a landmark victory in Japan’s Intellectual Property High Court, preventing third parties from recycling their ink cartridges, UK organisations fear that this could impact heavily on this country.
Empty Cartridge director Donald Hodgson said: “We don’t process a great deal of Canon in this country, it is mainly Epson and HP, but if Canon succeeds, the others will obviously try to follow suit.
It is estimated that around 250 million empty cartridges were dumped in landfill over the last decade, and many schools and businesses collect them to help various charities such as Help the Aged and Handicap International.
Hodgson added: “I thought the European Union community was keen about recycling? What these companies are doing frankly isn’t. Empty HP cartridges are sent back to the depot in a free post bag and then transported all the way to France.
“They are then smashed up and re-melted into their component parts to make new cartridges. There is no logic in this, as it would be cheaper to re-use before remaking.”
Hodgson suggests that the companies do not like re-manufacturers as they flood the market with cartridges, making prices low. In the USA, Lexmark tried to use the digital millennium copyright to stop it. But with these companies making their biggest profit from ink, this form of recycling could be set for a major challenge.
However, while the company in Japan, Recycling Assist, was ordered to dispose of its stocks, charities in the UK are remaining vigilant.
Oxfam recycling officer Louise Grady said: “We raise around £36,000 a year from recycling cartridges, but the companies will do anything in their powers to stop us. But with it being such a big industry and problems with landfill and the environment, I don’t think they will be able to.”
The UK’s leading provider, Epson press officer Rob Forbes said: “I can’t speculate about the implications for the UK. Canon went after a specific re-seller and won. And any case in the UK would probably be tied around a law suit making any comment difficult.”