Keep in mind that printer manufacturers have varying levels of corporate social responsibility (see our review of Epson’s corporate social responsibility here). Today you can buy a color inkjet printer for less
than $100 from nearly any electronics retailer–a printer capable of
producing photo-quality prints at a reasonable speed and with
surprising reliability when compared to printers manufactured only a
few years ago.
The drawback to low printer costs is that the ink cartridges for these
units will run almost as much as the original purchase price of the
printer. Over the useful life of your printer hardware, you may spend
many multiples of the original purchase price of the unit on supplies.
If you search the online user reviews for nearly any current inkjet
printer online, you will probably notice that people almost universally
complain about how few print pages you get from a new set of cartridges
and how much replacement cartridges cost.
Printer manufacturers have figured out that their real profit is in
selling printer supplies, not in the original equipment sale.
Manufacturers also need to keep the game changing in order to keep
their profits high. That is why they introduce slightly changed new
models every few months, each requiring a new type of cartridge. The obvious reason is to limit the ability of aftermarket cartridge suppliers and recyclers from getting a foothold.
Manufacturers have also found that they have a strong disincentive to
making their cartridges long-lasting. In fact, the cartridges that come
with your new printer may contain only a small fraction of a full load
of ink. Some manufacturers state that they include only “demonstrator”
cartridges with their printers. In other words, you will be able to
print only a few pages before you need to seek out an expensive ink
With millions of these printers out there, all requiring new cartridges
on a frustratingly continual basis, that is a lot of plastic headed for
In my business, I have tried using cartridge refilling kits with very
limited success. Buying aftermarket refilled inkjet cartridges has resulted in only slightly better but still unacceptable performance. For me, both the
cartridges that I refilled and those filled by industrious recycling
companies have lead to splotchy printing and limited printing capacity.
A few months back I upgraded my trusty old Epson R260 printer with a
Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS). I am happy to report that my
printing problems are largely solved.
The Continuous Ink Supply System consists of a permanent set of color
cartridges, hooked via flexible plastic hoses to a caddy filled with separate ink canisters for each color.
Using these systems involves slightly modifying most printers by
removing the old cartridges, removing various retaining clips, and
installing guide arms for the ink hoses which lead to a set of
permanent printer heads.
Installation and testing took about twenty minutes for my printer.
CISS kits for many popular inkjet printers can be found on eBay. The
kit for my Epson cost less than $55.00 delivered.
The only drawback that I have found so far is that I need to put the
printer through a head cleaning cycle a little more often with the CISS
than I did with the original equipment ink cartridges and the top cover
of my R260 will no longer fully close due to the positioning of one of
the ink hose clamps and the ink hoses passing out of the printer. In
addition, the caddy sitting next to the printer may be a little odd
looking and unwieldy if you need to move your printer often.
A full filling of ink in the CISS is the equivalent of a dozen or more
sets of ink cartridges and actually costs less than a single set of new
color cartridges. With those stats, I can live with a couple of minor
three points in mind as you shop for your CISS kit:
- Look for a
kit that includes the ink. Many sellers try to get you to buy the ink
a greatly inflated second purchase. (Everyone’s got an angle.)
- Choose a kit
that includes a chip reset switch. Some printers will cause problems by
telling your software that your cartridges need to be changed. You will
want a way to reset this feature.
- If you buy
your CISS on eBay, check the seller feedback carefully. When I bought
mine, I noticed complaints on the feedback scores of a couple of
suppliers. It seems that some sellers had a bad habit of packaging the
kits poorly, resulting in smashed ink bottles and a huge mess on
Overall a CISS kit is a great way to save both money and time in your business, and it is a great chance to make a small positive change in your waste stream.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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