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Aussies repurpose used printer cartridges into roads




An innovative Australian firm called Downer found a way to resurrect tons of used printer ink cartridges by repurposing them into a key component of a new type of asphalt. Over the course of the last eight years, its solution – TonerPave – has been tested by the Sidney administration on numerous occasions, ultimately attracting the attention of several high-profile partners looking to get in on the renewable action. Downer’s curious formula also includes silica, minerals, oxidized iron, and a couple of other components that various industries produce as waste, making them easy enough to acquire.

Going green by going (ink) black

To date, Downer successfully repurposed over 20,000 metric tons (40 million lbs) of printer cartridges and says this is just the beginning of its unique project. Looking at its growing list of partners, that’s not hard to believe, especially after industry giant Toshiba joined forces with the Aussie company. The Tokyo-based conglomerate is now increasing its contributions to the initiative, though it’s also keen on diversifying the methods of recycling this sort of waste.

What’s perhaps even more important is that Toshiba is already running numerous ink recycling programs across the world, calling both enterprise and personal users of printing solutions to bring their empty cartridges for recycling – regardless of whether they came from the Japanese company. Besides an obviously positive environmental effect, the move is also good for Toshiba’s public image, hence being likely to prompt a trend of similarly green initiatives on an industry-wide level.

Downer also isn’t limiting itself to printer toner, with the firm also recycling pigments, wax, and acrylic paint, all of which are used for making TonerPave as well. Its overall philosophy recently resulted in another collaboration with Melbourne-based Close the Loop, a firm specializing in renewables, eco-friendly infrastructure, and other technologies geared toward achieving total planetary sustainability.

It remains to be seen whether TonerPave gains traction outside of Sydney, though the local government appears to be more than pleased with the first fruits of their partnership with Downer. City officials said the solution lowered their road construction and maintenance emissions by approximately 40% since they started employing it back in 2010. The figure, based on comparisons with traditional asphalt manufacturing, is expected to go up significantly in the coming years.