February 28, 2011
Three Kiwi companies are investigating if waste residue toner recovered from recycled cartridges can be re-used in New Zealand roads, in research that could cut the volume of crude oil imported into the country to make bitumen.
The project, which is a unique collaboration between Ricoh New Zealand, Croxley Stationery and Downer, could result in diverting as much as 15 tonnes of waste residue toner a year away from landfill and into roads.
Early testing has seen the successful inclusion of waste toner, left over from photocopiers and other Ricoh devices, in both bitumen and PMB (polymer modified bitumen). PMB has a high resistance to wear and tear and is used in heavy traffic areas, but the polymer additive is very expensive. The addition of the waste toner to this material is significantly cheaper and also a world first.
Ricoh New Zealand managing director Mike Pollok says the project is a fantastic fit with the company's focus on reducing environmental effects from its business.
"Ricoh is committed to taking responsibility for the whole-of-life impacts of its products, and finding a destination for un-used toner is a great step forward."
The Ministry for the Environment awarded $45,800 from the Waste Minimisation Fund to the project.
Croxley's subsidiary the Toner Recycling Centre (TRC), which operates a cartridge collection and recycling programme for document solutions companies including Ricoh, collects the old toner cartridges.
TRC currently recycles more than 500,000 cartridges annually. Should the project be successful, other manufacturers would be invited into the scheme to achieve the goal of 100 per cent recycling of waste toner in New Zealand.
The trial will continue testing waste toner in both PMB, the preferred option, and asphalt.
Downer, one of the country's leading designer and builder of roads, is helping to fund the research. Should the project be successful, waste toner which is currently sent to landfill could be converted into a useable product, making the cartridges and toner within them 100 per cent recyclable.