Four companies have come together to provide a closed-loop toner-cartridge recycling program for Toshiba America Business Solutions Inc.
The first shipment of 35 percent post-consumer polystyrene pellets was recently delivered to Falcon Plastics Inc., a Brookings, S.D., custom molder that makes Toshiba's toner cartridges. New recycled-content cartridges will begin to be manufactured at the end of the month, said a Toshiba spokesman.
Toshiba provides customers with a pre-paid shipping label so they can send used cartridges to Plastic Recycling Inc. in Indianapolis. PRI reprocesses the black high-impact PS and blends it with post-industrial and virgin resin.
The General Polymers Division of Ashland Distribution Co. ships the raw material to Falcon, which molds the finished cartridges and sends them to Toshiba's Mitchell, S.D., operation.
Falcon had been supplying Toshiba with post-consumer-content cartridges since 1995, said Jay Bender, Falcon's vice president and chief operating officer. This effort is the first to re-use material from an original into a new part.
Bender said now Falcon and Toshiba do not have the quality issues previously associated with post-consumer material because the resin's source is not a mystery.
Dave Tronnes, manufacturing vice president at Toshiba's Mitchell operation, said it was a challenge to find a recycler to take and preprocess the black PS.
"Through trial and error we found PRI through General Polymers," Tronnes said.
Post-consumer material costs about the same or slightly more than virgin, Bender said.
"There are some costs to make this work, but there are some environmental benefits — that's what really needs to be weighed out," he said.
"There's no real cost savings ... but it's more of a quality [issue], knowing where the post-consumer material is coming from and ... being able to say the same material was in a cartridge before."
Tronnes said about 13-15 percent of Toshiba toner cartridges are returned for the program, which is limited to U.S. customers.