The printing industry encompasses a range of activities similar to any product life cycle, including content creation, content production (printing), document distribution, document use, and document end-of-life disposal. A document can be a single printed page, bound report, photo book, magazine, or even printed packaging materials. However, in this particular review we selected studies that dealt directly with imaging equipment and their associated consumables. The term imaging equipment is defined in the energy using products (EuP) preparatory studies as a “commercially available product which was designed for the main purpose of producing a printed image (paper document or photo) from a digital image through a marking process” (Stobbe 2007, 12).
There were two main reasons for this selection. First, companies that manufacture imaging equipment have been proactively taking steps to minimize their environmental impacts and have independently conducted several studies of their products to promote this fact (see the following section for details). Second, there is increasing scrutiny of this class of product. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) P1680.2 Standard for Environmental Assessment of Imaging Equipment, currently under development, will provide a set of performance criteria to be used in tools intended to help inform purchasers of the environmental impact of electronic products (IEEE 2010) (see, e.g., the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool).
We decided not to focus on studies of the pulp and paper industry. Paper is clearly an important contributor to the life cycle impacts of printing, but discussion of paper's impact is only considered to the extent that it is a factor in our sample of equipment studies. For the interested reader, Dias and colleagues (2007) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 2010) provide excellent reviews of paper and pulp industry LCAs.
Another limitation on scope was based on the intended market segment of the imaging equipment. The printing market can be broadly classified as either consumer or commercial. The consumer market can be characterized as home and office use, where the printed output supports the users’ activities. In contrast, the commercial market is characterized by the fact that revenue is largely and directly dependent on the printed output of the imaging equipment. The quantity being printed has been used as a way to distinguish between the consumer and commercial markets, with more than 100 pages per day being considered commercial (U.S. EPA 2007). For our analysis we focused on the consumer market.
Study Sample Selection
The initial search process consisted of an exhaustive review of secondary source materials; a list was created of all the studies we could find that fit the broadest scope of LCAs of the printing industry. Because we were focusing on process rather than quantitative results, the literature reviewed was not limited to LCAs, but included assessments that took a life cycle approach and considered multiple portions of the product life cycle. Thus studies included both the device and marking consumables, such as print cartridges. There were some studies we found references to but were unable to obtain because they were proprietary. An attempt was made to not limit studies to any particular region of the world. This process resulted in a list of approximately 40 references and included studies that ranged from personal printing to the printing of magazines and packaging.
The list was then reviewed by industry experts to ensure that no major studies had been omitted. After adding studies suggested by our reviewers, studies were eliminated based on the criteria described in the section above on scope. Table 1 provides a brief overview of each study, including the context (e.g., study goals, practitioner affiliations, and products examined), as context heavily influences uncertainty tolerances, interpretation, the frame boundary, and assumption decisions (Wenzel 1998).
Table 1. Summary of studies included in the analysis
| External marketing |
|Koehler 2010||Device manufacturer||Xerox||Specific imaging equipment||Solid ink and laser MFDs||Marketing||Comparative LCA: Technologies|
|Berglind 2002||Academia: University of Kalmar||Tepro||Cartridges and toner||HP cartridge C4127X||Marketing||Comparative LCA: Remanufacture|
| Four Elements 2008||Consultant||HP, FEC||Cartridges and toner||HP LJ 10A and remanufactured cartridges||Marketing||Comparative LCA: Remanufacture|
| Design and decision tool development |
|Ord 2009||Device manufacturer||HP||General imaging equipment||Inkjet printer||Design||Internal design tool|
|Ebner 2009||Device manufacturer||Xerox||General imaging equipment||Printers||Design||Design directional indicator|
|Silva 2006||Device manufacturer, Academia: University of Kentucky||Lexmark||General imaging equipment||Not applicable||Design||Design stage sustainability scoring|
|Kerr 2001||Academia: Lund University, Royal Melbourne IT||Fuji-Xerox||Specific imaging equipment||Photocopier remanufacture||Design||Comparative LCI: Remanufacture|
| Policy |
|Ahmadi 2003||Academia: Clarkson University||Xerox||Cartridges and toner||Toner||Policy||LCI: toner|
|Mayers 2005||Academia: University of Surrey||HP||General imaging equipment||HP printer waste||Policy||Comparative LCA: End of life|
|Stobbe 2007||Consultant/Academia||Fraunhofer IZM, Energy Star Database||General imaging equipment||EP & IJ printers, copiers and MFDs||Policy||Industry baseline LCA|
| Customer calculators |
| HP 2009||Device manufacturer||HP||Customer calculator||Personal and office printers||Customer calculator||Cost and carbon calculator|
|Xerox 2008||Device manufacturer||Xerox||Customer calculator||Personal and office printers||Customer calculator||Compare baseline and optimized print scenarios|
We categorized the final set of studies in two different ways. The first was the intended purpose of the study, which included the following categories: supporting an external marketing message (External Marketing), supporting design and business decisions (Design), informing policy (Policy), and calculators to inform customers (Calculators). Policy is the most broadly defined category and includes analyzing policy, setting baselines, identifying hot spots for policy development, and comparing of alternative technologies rather than specific products. For the purposes of analysis, each study was assigned to a primary purpose category, though some studies could clearly serve multiple purposes. The second dimension was the practitioner (i.e., LCA primary author) type, which included the manufacturer of the device, third-party hired consultant, and academic/independent researcher. These purpose and practitioner categories are not exclusive, but were developed based on a weight-of-evidence approach.
Koehler, D., W. Latko, and A. Stocum. 2010. The multifunctional Xerox solid ink LCA white paper serves as a quick overview of a Xerox comparison study performed on a color solid ink multifunctional printer and a comparable color laser multifunctional printer.
Berglind, J. and H. Eriksson. 2002. One of the first LCAs to assess the environmental impact of cartridge remanufacture and reuse for laser printers. In this study the environmental impact of an original Hewlett Packard (HP) C4127X toner cartridge and its disposal according to HP's process at the time was compared to the remanufacture and reuse of the same cartridge at Tepro Rebuild Products AB.
Four Elements Consulting 2008. Four Elements Consulting revisited a 2004 First Environment LCA study comparing a popular HP Laser Jet print cartridge to the average compatible remanufactured one. This version of the study updated data related to the production/remanufacturing practices, end-of-life trends, and product quality and reliability. This study examined differences in print quality page acceptance between original and remanufactured toner cartridges.
Design Decision Tools
Ord, J., S. Canonico, T. Strecker, and E. Chappell. 2009. HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) reports on the development process undertaken to establish the initial internal metrics that will guide design, chart progress, and set environmental goals for products.
Ebner, F., S. Chang, J. Knapp, V. Deyoung, and W. Latko. 2009. Xerox's Green Scorecard is neither a design tool nor a substitute for an LCA; rather, it is meant to guide selection of eco-efficiency research opportunities in digital printing. It is based on quantified input data for six criteria and was validated using LCA results.
Silva, N. D., I. S. Jawahir, O. Dillion, and M. Russell. 2006. This study develops a qualitative streamlined “Sustainability Scoring” method for design stage decisions. Six elements are defined: environmental impact, societal impact, functionality, resource utilization and economy, manufacturability, and recyclability/remanufacturability. The study compares how design practitioners and consumers place different levels of importance on these elements.
Kerr, W. and C. Ryan. 2001. This study investigates whether remanufacturing at Fuji Xerox could reduce the resource intensity of a product system. This study was not intended to assess the overall life cycle environmental impacts of a photocopier or the remanufacture of such products; however, it adhered to LCA processes and delineations.
Ahmadi, A., B. H. Williamson, T. L. Theis, and S. E. Powers. 2003. This study presents results of a life cycle inventory (LCI) of toner used in the xerographic process. Results were intended to be used as a baseline for comparison of future alternatives, but could also be used as a data source for more comprehensive studies of the entire print system.
Mayers, C. K., C. M. France, and S. J. Cowell. 2005. A case study of HP printer recycling in the United Kingdom. LCA and costing are used to explore some of the possible environmental impacts that may result due to the mass-based recovery and recycling targets established under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE 2003).
Stobbe, L. 2007. The EuP Preparatory Study is the result of extensive research conducted by the Institut fur Zuverlassigkeit und Mikointegration (IZM) consortium with the collaboration of industry and stakeholders. Six product case LCAs are performed, including electrophotographic multifunctional copiers (monochrome and color), laser printers (monochrome and color), and inkjet multifunctional printers (personal and workgroup).
Customer Carbon Calculators
Xerox. 2008. The Xerox Sustainability Calculator is not based on specific brands or models, rather it is meant to compare customer baselines with an optimized print option.
Hewlett-Packard 2009. The HP Carbon Footprint Calculator for printing gives users a use-phase estimate of the electricity cost and corresponding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that result from the production of that electricity. The cost and carbon footprint of the paper used are also estimated.