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Ctrl-P-don’t print

10 December, 2021

Printers. Quite possibly the most infuriating, badly designed, expensive appliances you’ll ever have the misfortune to welcome into your home. You buy one, it works (sort of) for a few months, you pay eye wateringly large amounts to replenish its tiny ink reservoirs, and then it decides it no longer wants to talk to your laptop, and you have to buy another one. This cat agrees with us.

So when we learned that Epson has a new sustainability plan, including an array of new targets, we were (slightly) intrigued. It commits to 100% renewable energy by 2023, €770m of investment, setting 1.5C aligned carbon reduction targets and a 44% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2025. This last one includes creating more efficient printers so the printer owner uses less energy to run the product. Their “heat free” printer would reduce energy consumption by up to 83%.

It’s all good, as far as it goes – refillable ink tanks, lightweight designs, maximised end-of-life recyclability. But…here’s a revolutionary idea…what if they just committed to making printers that worked? Spoiler alert: they have not. That’s a shame, as electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams globally, printers are notoriously hard to repair, *and* they are outside the scope of the new Right to Repair legislation. It’s not good for the planet, and it’s not good for our blood pressure.

There are plenty of ways to reduce your environmental impact when printing – vegetable-based inks, recycled paper, refillable or refilled ink cartridges, or even one of Epson’s new environmentally friendly printers. But for manufacturers that are serious about sustainability, creating robust printers that last is surely not just a consumer pleasing move but a win for the planet. For now, with print shops disappearing from the high street, surely a sharing economy app for printing has to be a serious contender for business idea of the year? Or, perhaps, we’ll just not hit the print button.

By Claire Jost

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