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Circular economy - the principle pointing us to a greener future

  • 3 Minutes read

Planet Earth is unbelievably precious.

Not only are our resources finite and overused, poor infrastructures mean that manufactured plastic items, structurally resistant enough to last for centuries, are often only used once.

Something isn’t working. The aims of recycling are honourable, but frameworks aren’t sophisticated enough to create a zero waste economy.

Driven by our pioneering European recycling technology division, which has facilities in the UK and Slovakia, the Brother solution is to work towards the realisation of a circular economy – a sophisticated concept that treats recycling as a last resort.

 

Principles of the circular economy

Single use plastics have been in the news extensively recently – and quite rightly.

Europeans consume 58 million tonnes of plastic every year, of which 39% is incinerated and 31%, which equates to 25.8 million tonnes, is landfilled. Currently just 30% is recycled1

At a brand level, Brother is tackling this problem by working towards the circular economy principles of reduce, reuse, refurbish, repair and recycle. 

By placing the priority on the pillars of reuse, refurbish and repair, our toner consumables can be remanufactured multiple times.

If plastic parts cannot be remanufactured, we grind them down into a re-usable format for recycling, meaning end of life goods are used as a source of raw materials for new products. 

 

Return to manufacturer schemes 
Factors such as cost and logistics render recycling and remanufacturing incredibly difficult. 

However to create an effective process, you also need to consider the vast array of plastic compounds, varying quality grades and indeed brand specific designs.

This mix of considerations means that manufacturers themselves are best placed to reuse or recycle their own plastic parts or products – a fact that is not escaping the notice of legislators who are increasingly viewing recycling return schemes as the solution. 

The print industry has a lot of experience in this area. For many years, customers have been returning ink and toner cartridges to manufacturers. 

Being in this unique position has been a fantastic opportunity that has enabled Brother to innovate and improve by conducting post-use analysis.

 

Genuinely greener – genuinely better

Over the years, Brother’s UK and Slovakian recycling technology centres have made significant strides in our reuse and recycling of plastics. 

Presently 60% of the output from our two European facilities comprises of recovered and recycled material. 

Adding to the eco credentials of Brother manufactured toner, analytical insight from our teams has helped us to reduce the use of raw materials while also improving the design of our ink and toner products in terms of performance, output and longevity. 

The combination of quality and sustainability are now completing the circular economy loop with our design optimisations helping us to increase our overall recyclability remanufacturing rates. With some newer models capable of being recycled two or even three times, we have easily increased remanufacturing rates by at least 10%. 

Customers seeking a greener printing solution should be alert to the fact that imitation third party print supplies are often non-reusable and non-recyclable due to their indecipherable material composition. So, if you want to embrace quality while doing your bit for the environment, genuine print supplies  are the only way to go.

For more information on Brother’s approach to the environment and recycling, please visit our page. 

 

1 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/pdf/plastics-strategy.pdf 

 

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