Toner refill

Toner refilling is the practice of refilling empty laser printer toner cartridges with new toner powder. This enables the cartridge to be reused, saving the cost of a complete new cartridge and the impact of the waste and disposal of the old one.

Refilling methods

Toner refilling commonly occurs several ways:

*Refilling and reuse by the end user. This is normally done by use of a DIY laser toner refill kit that includes a supply of compatible toner, reset chips where required, and instructions for the process of refilling. There are various types of toner powder, and many DIY toner refill products are available either online from ecommerce suppliers or through specialist retail stores.
*Refilling and resale by the original manufacturer. It is common for toner cartridges to be sold with reply paid labels enabling them to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling and reuse.
*Refilling and resale by a third party. Many independent companies that sell toner cartridges refill and reuse the original manufacturer's cartridges which they typically obtain from recycling companies. This is generally considered legitimate if the original manufacturer's branding is removed from the recycled product.
*Refilling as a service. Many independent companies offer a refilling service where customers can bring empty cartridges to be refilled. Toner refill franchises have sprung up over the last few years. Such refill chains offer services for customers to bring their empty toner cartridge and have it refilled on site or exchanges with a ready filled toner cartridge.

Toner cartridges cannot be refilled indefinitely, because their mechanical parts (such as drums and rollers) eventually wear out and an electro-optical device (the drum) become depleted or scratched. Organizations refilling cartridges for resale usually clean and test each cartridge to ensure that it is fit for reuse and resale. While several sources offer empty inkjet cartridges to be filled with your choice of ink, [www.mediastreet.com] it is difficult to find brand new empty OEM laser cartridges. A further complication is that some models of laser print engines, like most inkjet printers, communicate with "chips" or fuses inside the toner cartridge which indicate that the cartridge is exhausted, whether or not it actually is. Some research is usually required to determine the feasibility of refilling a particular cartridge.

In general, DIY refilling requires opening the cartridge (which was designed to prevent such activity), refilling the toner and capping the opening that was made to gain access. Some cartridges can be disassembled (carefully, lest you dump the toner contents all over yourself). Others require a hole to be drilled; vendors sell a soldering-iron-based device that melts a ~15mm hole in the plastic housing which is later closed with a plastic cap, or tape.

There are only a couple of critical things to be aware of: all toner is not the same formula (it's not just a matter of quality), and in some cases there may be separate additions of toner and "developer". Most kits sold by refill outfits include instructions for the particular type of printer or copier.

The following basic types of refill toner (differing mainly in particle size and fusing temperature) have been identified by one vendor [www.kalvins.com] while other refill vendors insist that each printer or copier model requires a unique type.

# Apple, HP, Canon printers
# Canon PC copiers
# IBM/Lexmark Optra and similar
# Epson EPL, NEC Silentwriter
# Xerox and Sharp
# Samsung and Lexmark Optra E
# Brother

Toner types should not be mix-and-matched, or else the cartridge and the printer may be damaged.

Economic reasons to refill cartridges

Because the cost of replacing toner cartridges in many laser printers in many cases now exceeds the cost of the laser printer that uses them, Refilling toner cartridges has now become popular, making the toner refill a new consumable product. There are many variations on toner refill as a product. There are full rainbow refill kits, that include everything needed to refill the 4 Toner cartridges (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). There are also standard toner refills, where the kit only contains one colour and a reset chip if applicable to the model of printer.

Environmental reasons to refill cartridges

There are also environmental benefits to refilling the toner cartridges of laser printers. The production of toner powders and liquids does not contribute CO2 to the environment other than that released from the electricity consumed in the production process and fuel for transportation. The shipping of powders is by far more economical because 1kg of powder can refill up to 25 cartridges, and the space needed to ship 1kg of powder would be used to ship 1 or 2 cartridges.

Toner cartridges are mostly made from plastic. The plastic in each cartridges takes approximately 3.3 litres of oil to produce (over half a gallon). 1 gallon of petroleum is also burned to manufacture one toner cartridge releasing the equivalent of .01 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Thus, when a cartridge is refilled instead of replaced, this conserves approximately 3.3 litres of oil and 1 gallon of petrolium. It also prevents 0.1 metric tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Finally, refilling avoids throwing away the cartridge into a landfill where it would take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.

Safety considerations

Toner powder can be harmful if inhaled. As such there are some safety risks involved in refilling toner cartridges.

Toner powder is not toxic but does need to be handled with care. Health and safety and COSHH regulations must be considered when handling, transporting and storing Toner powders.

Gloves should be worn when handling toner as well as a protective dust mask to prevent inhalation.

References

See also

*Toner


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