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Soy-Based Toner Cartridges? 389

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-green-they-say-on-the-far-side-of-the-hill dept.
Jon.Laslow writes "I'm getting a lot of pressure from managers to switch to soy-based toner cartridges for our laser printers because they are 'greener.' The problem is, the only information I can find on them is from sales pitches; and the reviews all seem to be user testimonials. Do you have any experience soy-based printing products? Did you have any issues with them, and how was the print quality?"
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Soy-Based Toner Cartridges?

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  • Re:What next? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:10AM (#27826745)

    Is there anything you can't do with Soy?

    Make it taste good....

  • Be Green (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:13AM (#27826779)

    Soy Ink? What a freaking joke! The total octopi, or whatever they get ink from, saved by Soy Ink, is truly insignificant.

    If your company wants to be green, they need to buy recycled paper, or buy a sustainable forest, or replace all that horrid grass outside with natural prairie and woods.

    When are people going to get that using "green" products is still producing consumer waste, and that if you want to truly make an impact, you need to ride your bike sometimes, or something!

  • Re:Did you search? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:15AM (#27826795)
    Since when do astroturfers search before posting their advertisement?
  • Re:Did you search? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SigNuZX728 (635311) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:27AM (#27826887)
    I'm too old to assume anything anymore.
  • by wisenboi (1154441) * <frank.marcelli@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:29AM (#27826901)
    From what I've read, soy-based printer toner/ink isn't that much different. The quality is likely to be less rich (especially for high end prints of brochures on regular paper) but otherwise there shouldn't be too much of a difference.
  • All right Jimmy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by earnest murderer (888716) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:39AM (#27826971)

    Mr. President you ought to know by now nobody is going to do that. The green economy is about feeling like you care without actually doing anything. It's about keeping your margins up and your expenses low.

    Marketing!

  • Wrong attitude! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by russsell (185151) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:53AM (#27827043)

    Why are you resisting pressure from managers? The more you push one way, the more they'll push back.

    A far better approach to managing your managerial stakeholders is to say "Hey, that's a great idea! Let's do an experiment... let's change your cartridges to soy for a few months and see how they go!"

    This way even if they don't work, you're seen as a listener rather than a roadblock.

  • Re:Be Green (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:54AM (#27827055) Homepage

    So all that's left is "how does it hold in front of humidity" ?

    This is a major advantage of laser printing vs. a number of inkjets. Does soy make a difference ?

  • Ad absurdium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:56AM (#27827073) Journal

    Let me get this straight...

    You build an extremely precise little box out of highly refined metals, circuit boards and PCBs, manufactured from parts made all around the world before being shipped thousands of miles to your local Staples, and you're worried about the half ounce of INK!?!?!

    That's like cuttng calories by skipping the cherry on your triple scoop ice cream sundae!

    Want to go green? Use CFLs. Replace your shower heads. Bike to work. Email instead of printing. Open windows rather than hit the thermostat. Use GotoMeeting rather than fly. Plant some trees on the South side of your home and office buildings. Buy your food from a local Farmer's Market rather than the mega-mart to avoid 'fresh' food from Argentina or some other place 4,000 miles away in refrigerated containers.

    When the ink jet containers themselves are made of soy, and the mfgs standardize their cartridges so that reuse is more feasible, I'll take notice. Otherwise, this flavor of 'green' is idotic.

    Buy Soy ink because it's better, lasts longer, or is cheaper and don't delude yourself with false green.

  • Re:Be Green (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Orlando (12257) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:14AM (#27827159) Homepage

    Em, or stop printing.

  • by jovius (974690) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:27AM (#27827231)
    Soy doesn't necessarily make the product green. Where is the soy produced, is it genetically modified, what's the carbon imprint of the whole product? How much processing does the soy need to become ink-like, and what chemicals are used along the way?

    It might be cool to have soy based toner in your printer, but the overall damage to the environment may be wider and larger. A lot of companies greenwash their products in order to widen their customer base.

    The Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article seems to have some answers. Moving away from petroleum is an advantage.
  • Re:Wrong attitude! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:02AM (#27827415)
    Or you're seen as the guy who switched us to these terrible new "green" toners that don't print decently and make our external communications look second-rate.

    You're assuming that his managers will take responsibility if their project fails; while that's certainly possible I wouldn't count on it, particularly if your goal is to ingratiate yourself with those managers.
  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wwahammy (765566) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:21AM (#27827513)
    We worked out the effect of long-term transportation of produce on the environment in a college class last year. I wish I had the numbers but it would take some really, really inefficient local organic farmers for your situation to pan out.

    The parent hit on one of the most important issues related to local agriculture: seasonality. Getting produce when it is naturally in season in your area will really reduce carbon output for the produce. My prof subscribed to a local organic agriculture program where he received produce in season for over half the year. Not only did he reduce his carbon footprint but he liked the fact that every few weeks he'd get something totally different (with suggested recipes). He'd get types of produce he'd never seen before and couldn't buy in a store if he wanted to.
  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:21AM (#27827515) Journal

    The drum is made of selenium that usually winds in land fills.

    I suspect that someday, people will be using those landfills as a high-grade ore for all kinds of metals.

    -jcr

  • Ask them: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:21AM (#27827517)

    "How is it 'greener', to use *food*, that people and animals might need to eat, or space that you can grow food on?"

    This thing is doomed like every single one of those bio-fuels. Because as soon as we stop having enough space to grow our food, it has to go away, or people will die. With the current speed at which humanity grows, versus our efficiency in farming, this state will be reached even quicker than the end of oil.

    Sounds like your managers just want to do what managers do most of the time: Go for the quick money/power/greenness/etc-grab, and ignore that it's very stupid in the long run.

  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noundi (1044080) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:49AM (#27827633)
    All this can be summed up very neatly: stop excessive consuming. Doesn't matter if it's water, oil, cows, tampons etc. If people would stop their excessive consuming all of the above would no longer be relevant.
  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob Kaper (5960) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:07AM (#27827727) Homepage

    Mercury that one broken bulb can raise airborne mercury levels in your house to above safe levels.

    Light bulbs don't break during normal operation, let alone CFLs which are made of much sturdier glass. Unless you play your baseball indoors you probably have better things to worry about.

  • Uncle Bob. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:03AM (#27827947)
    Do you remember the scene in Terminator 2, where young John Connor is speaking with his cyborg protector in Mexico, and they look over to see two kids playing a shoot-em-up game with guns? John says, after a flash of pessimistic insight, "We're not going to make it, are we? Humanity, I mean?" (I'm paraphrasing from memory).

    This slashdot posting really evoked similar feelings in me. Pressure from managers to switch to soy-based toners, in an attempt to be greener. There is no world in which this is reasonable. If we are headed for ecological destruction, this obviously will do nothing to ameliorate the result; it's meaningless feel good tripe. If the ecological Armageddon isn't coming, this sort of in-efficiency for the sake of PR and... well, feel good tripe will ruin the economy, and is a good example of the tortuous lack of sense that will haunt us until our death. We, humanity as a whole, seem incapable of approaching any significant rationally. Like John Connor, suddenly fear we aren't going to make it.
  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:09AM (#27827973)
    Forget soy-based ink. A HUGELY less polluting alternative would be for them to simply sell refill ink in bulk. That's not going to happen, though; the only reason Soy is being given as an alternative is for revenue enhancement.
  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @05:27AM (#27828029)
    Although local farmers using chemical fertilizers and pesticides will still be more efficient than the organic growers. Just because they're local doesn't mean they can't use modern tech.

    I'm a bit peeved at organic farming, because it is deliberately under-utilizing land and being purposely inefficient at creating one of the most precious resources on Earth: food. Organic crops are just luxuries for the rich. (By rich, I an including the majority of Americans.) If the world switched to growing most crops organically, we would kill hundreds of millions of people, if not billions.
  • by Jeppe Salvesen (101622) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @06:52AM (#27828361)

    There are plenty of steps that should be prioritized over soy-based ink:

    • Your server room can run at a hotter temperature, without increasing failure rates [datacenterknowledge.com]. Set it to the max of what is comfortable to work in.
    • You can probably virtualize quite a physical few servers out of existence.
    • When/if your offices are air conditioned, make sure you use energy-efficient lighting, turn off workstations overnight etc etc.
    • Make sure there are enough bike-racks outside the office.
    • Provide a shower for those that want to bike/run/rollerblade to the office.
    • Make sure the office heating system adjusts temperature overnight.

    Once these steps are done (the company will profit from most of them), feel free to consider soy-based toner cartridges.

  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gerglion (1264634) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @08:24AM (#27828879)
    Who is to say that we aren't slowly killing millions (billions) with the chemically fertilized genetically modified food grown today? I find under-utilizing land to be a better prospect than over-utilizing, where we need to pump the ground full of chemicals just to continue pulling crops from it.
  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <.moc.nosduh-arab ... .nosduh.arabrab.> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @09:10AM (#27829361) Journal
    Better solution - turn off the printer, and force people to actually get off their butts and turn it on if they really, really, REALLY need to print something.

    Benefits:
    Savings in toner, paper, energy, filing space, shredder and printer wear-and-tear, people get *some* exercise, reduced consumption of post-its as people no longer tack stickies to print-outs, photocopy the result, then hand THAT around, no more "where is that piece of paper" ...

  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @09:10AM (#27829365)

    I think the real backlash a lot of people have is that a lot of "environmental" stuff is information from marketers, not engineers. We don't want to be told "use this, it's better". We want to see the analysis, what could have been done differently, and see that the company chose the best option (most bang for the buck). And we get mad when the decisions don't make sense (for the consumer).

    Example: company could ship only high-capacity toner cartridges, rather than half-size "starter" packs, at a minimal cost difference. Less trash, happy consumer - company misses out on an extra $50 in sales. So your new printer ships with an anemic toner cartridge.

    Or (this) example: company touts "soy-based" toner without demonstrating if it is effective or even better for the environment. Just "it's soy based-it must be good for you!" Company ignores consumer requests to standardize cartridge shapes, improve reliability, reduce excess packaging, etc. No data on whether cartridges live as long as standard cartridges, if toner fades or fails to stick, if coverage is as good.

    Why do we need data? If the soy cartridge dies 5% early, there will still be more waste in the landfill. "Anything that's used by individuals in small quantities may be insignificant" still means that if you're spending a nickel to save a penny, it's a bad deal. If the switch to soy doesn't have hidden costs, great. Take the small improvement for now, and work on the next one. But saying "hey, maybe it's a little better" doesn't cut it.

  • by EgoWumpus (638704) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:25AM (#27830479)

    Or do you really think we can get somewhere without taking one step at a time?

    Actually, most geeks are under the faith-based assumption that at some point, this is entirely possible. That Transporter Pads or Jump Drives or simple Teleportation is merely a question of time. It is so inculcated our geek culture that certain things will simply come easy once the elegant solution appears, as if by magic. Further, I think it affects how we view most problems.

    Take environmentalism. Clearly the solution is greener products; things that will fit into a sustainable economy. But it's a binary clause; if your entire product can be green, then it should be. Otherwise, who are you fooling!? There is no sense of bootstrapping, of having to replace pieces as you can.

    The subset of the culture that subscribes heavily to this stance tends to be against refactoring code, and for simply writing programs wholesale by themselves in their attic. They're against good test procedures and using older technologies because they're not shiny enough. Ironically, they're also the sorts who probably haven't written their own libraries - or even approached the idea. They buy most of their stuff, because whatever their realm of expertise, it's limited in scope. Fix plumbing? Hell no! Drill something, or saw something? What is the point - something you pay for is clearly going to be better, and in the end that arbitrary sense of idealistic quality is all that matters.

    I hope that as we move forward we get more geeks like you, value_added, who recognize that it's not about suddenly being in Nirvana. It's about constantly changing the little bits that are pain points once any better solution becomes available, rather than holding out for some mythical day brought about in some opaque fashion wherein everything is just right of it's own accord.

    In the end it's simple economics; the time-value of progress suggests that a little 'money' or 'value' now, and a little later, and a little later will yield a total greater value than a simple lump sum at the end.

  • Re:Ad absurdium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:13AM (#27831221) Homepage

    If you're older, like me, you can remember breaking one or more mercury thermometers as a child. Thermometers have 50 mg to 3 g [purdue.edu]. So as toxic as mercury may be, you'd have to break more than a dozen CFLs to have the household exposure that pretty much every house in the nation had each time a child playing with a thermometer dropped it a few decades back.

    That, as we know, ended civilization. It was precisely like the lead pipes to the Romans.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:32PM (#27832629) Journal

    That movie never made any sense to me. If the only food supply is people, how long can a society last? A human body would feed you for maybe one week. Then what do you use to survive?

    The Matrix has a similar flaw

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