Company Introduces Soy-Based Laser Cartridges

New toner should prove no more costly than the name-brand cartridges for laser printers.

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A Maine company says it will soon start selling the first toner cartridges for laser printers made from soy instead of petroleum. And one analyst is predicting the rest of the industry will move to soy-based toners.

Print Recovery Concepts said the toner derived from soybean oil performs at least as well as traditional brands made with petroleum. The company announced the technology to start lining up distributors, who should have product to start selling this fall, Vice President Rick Greenlaw said.

Not that soy-based toners will save a flood of oil imports. The country uses about 100 million cartridges of laser toner a year. That sounds like a lot. But each cartridge requires only a liter or two of petroleum, meaning a wholesale conversion saves maybe 1 million barrels. That's hardly a dent in demand that's measured in billions of barrels.

But PRC says the cartridges will be no more expensive than name-brand toners. They're also easier to de-ink in recycling processes, notes Kase Niles, an analyst at NPD Group. "Because soy-based toner offers a cleaner and sustainable source of toner, PRC's efforts will be mirrored by OEM manufacturers and remanufacturers throughout the entire toner industry," Niles says.