Frequently Asked Questions

What is remanufacturing?

Remanufacturing is an industrial process whereby spent inkjet or toner cartridges are disassembled and cleaned, refilled, engineered to become “as new”, and then marketed as own-brand cartridges, competing on the basis of price and quality with new cartridges. The empty cartridges are collected from consumers, businesses, charities, sporting-clubs, schools, etc. At the forefront of the development of new, environmentally friendly manufacturing, the remanufacturing industry is also instituting new, industry-wide systems and initiatives which are creating a recognizable foundation of quality and effective management across all markets. Indeed, many firms within the industry are now developing new product and marketing ideas on a par with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

Are remanufactured cartridges poorer quality than the branded originals?

No. And many independent consumer surveys confirm this and ETIRA confirms this: remanufactured cartridges are made according to the highest standards (including ISO,DIN) and produced ‘fit for purpose’. Our growing sales prove the satisfaction with remanufactured goods. Judging by the substantial and rapid growth of our industry in the last decade, customers are increasingly satisfied with the choice and quality remanufacturers provide. With quality levels being the same or higher, the only real difference between an original and remanufactured cartridge is the price!

Where do remanufacturers source supplies of empty cartridges from?

Supplies of used cartridges are freely and competitively purchased from a number of sources (consumers, businesses, charities, sporting-clubs, schools). In the development of the market for remanufactured products, a number of broking companies have emerged, to manage the purchase and supply of spent cartridges from all types of OEM, ensuring that quality standards remain high. The supply of empty cartridges – and hence, their price – is determined to a significant extent by the willingness of the OEMs to make available for re-use, empty cartridges which would otherwise be thrown into landfill sites.

What is ETIRA?

ETIRA is the Brussels-based European trade association of the European toner and inkjet cartridge remanufacturing industry. It represents the interests of the approx. 1,400 remanufacturers in the EU, and is the voice of the industry. Created in 2003, ETIRA now provides many kinds of services to its members and the industry at large: quality/standardization, legal/regulatory advice, public relations, member contact platforms etc.

What does the Code of Conduct and the ticked-R stand for ?

The ticked-R brand is a collective mark, used exclusively by ETIRA full member firms who abide by the ETIRA Code of Conduct. The Code represents a set of guidelines for the remanufacturing industry. These concern general quality, social and environmental standards. An ETIRA member using the collective R-mark commits himself to adhere to, respect, and fully comply with the provisions of the Code in all his business activities. If you buy from an ETIRA member using the ticked-R collective mark, you are buying from a respected company applying the highest industry standards.

What is the position of OEMs towards remanufacturing?

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) these are the multinational brand name manufacturers of printers and copiers- should be wholeheartedly behind the principles of remanufacturing. However, a few OEMs do not support the efforts of our industry – in contrast to the consumers and businesses we supply – as they see it as a threat to their market position which they are obviously seeking to maintain. We want to achieve an environment where we can compete fairly with OEM cartridge manufacturers on the basis of cost, quality and the availability of a full choice of products for informed consumers and businesses.

Who buys remanufactured cartridges?

A growing number of consumers and businesses. Increasingly, remanufactured cartridges are a first choice for users who recognise that cartridges are often the largest cost they have when buying a printer or a copier. Our industry’s commitment to quality, value and service means that business users can benefit from reduced costs in printer cartridges without any loss in quality. Home users of computer printers and faxes are also recognising that remanufactured cartridges – which are often up to 20%-30% cheaper than the OEM equivalents – represent a real, cost-effective and environmentally-friendlier choice for them.

How much is this market worth in Europe?

Our estimated figures suggest that the cartridge remanufacturing industry adds approx. €1,5 billion to the European economy each year.

What market share does remanufacturing have? How might that market share grow?

Across Europe, remanufactured toner cartridges (excluding colour laser toner) have a 15%-25%% market share, and remanufactured inkjet cartridges currently have 5%-15% market share. These shares may grow in the next years if the EU adopts ecodesign legislation that obliges OEM’s to support 3rd party cartridge reuse, and decisive action is taken to stop the influx of polluting cheap single-use non-OEM newbuilt cartridges from SE Asia.

How does remanufacturing help the environment?

Every year, more than 500 million plastic printer cartridges end up dumped in landfills around the world. But cartridges can be remanufactured fo re-use, easily up to 2-3 times: our industry substantially reduces the number of cartridges going to landfill, in an ideal world by a staggering 66-75%! Every cartridge that we remanufacture is one fewer going directly to the landfill. For every remanufactured cartridge purchased, its one less new cartridge that needs to be produced, saving energy, and preventing it from entering the waste stream and from draining the planets natural resources.

How do you substantiate your claims about “being green”?

The re-use of the plastics and metals used in toner and print cartridges is by far the most environmentally-friendly method of dealing with what is, essentially, a waste product – the empty cartridge. For example, recycled aluminium, used again in remanufactured products, uses 95% less energy in manufacture than virgin aluminium. Remanufacturing, however is not only about being ‘green’; it is a real solution to the growing waste mountain that delivers significant business and tangible and real environmental benefits. It is not just an industry – it is a manufacturing ethos of re-use, not just re-cycle. The EU has recently set new levels in graduation in general waste policy: Prevention of waste now has the highest priority. Immediately next comes re-use of waste. The collection and controlled dumping, as advocated by some OEMs comes as last resort. Remanufacturing therefore is biding by EU policy to the letter and the spirit.

How much raw material is saved each year through remanufacturing?

Significant amounts of waste that would otherwise end up in landfill sites are reused by our industry. Our own research estimates that remanufacturing can make a significant difference to the amount of new raw materials produced and used to supply the growing demand for inkjet and toner cartridges:

Why do you claim that the OEMs create ‘unfair competition’?

A few manufacturers require consumers to send their cartridges back to them rather than allowing the user to have the cartridge remanufactured for re-use. These empties are then sent to landfill instead of remanufactured by us. More waste for nothing ! Also, some printer manufacturers now insert technology in the cartridges which serve no other purpose than to prevent their reuse. Many new printers use chips to control their cartridges’ interactions with the printer, including data on the level of toner or ink still available. This means that a remanufactured cartridge, which does not have this replacement chip, will inform the user that the cartridge is empty, even when it is actually full! If a replacement chip is used, a display warns the user that the cartridge is non-original, and may void the warranty! The worst are the cartridges containing “killer” chips, disabling the printer if a remanufactured cartridge is used! And printer manufacturers are adding increasing layers of technological complexity in attempts to stop the creation of compatible aftermarket chips. It would benefit both the environment and consumers for the cartridges to be designed so that they can be reused more easily. We want legislation to make such barriers to reuse illegal. Remanufacturers support the right of OEMs to manufacture new printer and cartridge products, most of which are high quality products meeting a clear consumer demand. However, our concern is that, in seeking to maintain their market position, they often act in a way which is not only against fair competition policy in Europe, but also clearly is detrimental for the European environment. This reduces the purchaser’s freedom of choice. What if car buyers were tied in to buying a particular brand of petrol simply because they liked a particular brand of car ? This is effectively the situation with cartridges.

How does this affect the remanufacturing industry?

In the European market, our members can be faced with frequent shortages of cartridges being made available on the open market, due to the decision by many OEMs to purportedly ‘recycle’ their customers’ spent cartridges outside the EU (which often in practice means they are being dumped in South East Asia, polluting local areas, river beds etc.), in contravention of existing legislation. We want to get the message across that re-use is always better than recycling. The OEM’s should be supporting our industry – we are dealing with their waste.

How does it affect efforts to reduce waste?

Without the effective enforcement of existing legislation requiring OEMs to properly recycle waste products in their home markets (and thus, allowing them to arrive on the open market to remanufacture), a larger proportion than necessary of spent cartridges are still ending up on landfill sites. Because the OEMs are keen to see production levels of new cartridges maintained – for sound business reasons, clearly – the potential reduction in the use of raw materials which could be achieved through the greater availability of remanufactured cartridges is lost.

Where does the industry want to see change?

Our industry wants to see a change in the way current European legislation is created, bringing competition policy in line with newer, environmental imperatives. Environmental legislation should be given equal weight as competition law has. some OEM’s currently restrict consumers’ preference for non-OEM cartridges by making their use a breach of warranty. This is in stark contrast to the motor industry, where consumers can choose the brand of petrol that they put in their tanks. ETIRA therefore: – Encourages the EU to endorse re-use/remanufacturing as the preferred purchasing option for the EU and Member States. – Seeks greater government support for remanufacturing as a key part of policies to increase recycling and reduce pollution.

Is all this not just a battle about market shares between the two competing business sectors OEMs and remanufacturers, having nothing to do with the environment?

Absolutely not. Of course, all product remanufacturing, including cartridge remanufacturing, has started out of plain common business sense. We never deny that we are running a business. Still, the environment angle is the key here: empties normally always end up in landfill/incineration, but it was our business activity which has turned that negative process around. This is why cartridge re-use must remain possible, and OEMs should not be allowed to prevent re-use. In the end, they could also re-use their empties themselves, and we could nor would never stop them from doing so.

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