The battle lines for the containment of garbage has eluded mankind since the civilization started with the Egyptians. The sad part however, is that the modern world have created materials that may take centuries to decompose which ultimately become a burden over dumpsites and landfills later on. No effective garbage disposal system has been in place since burning still happens to be the most relied upon method for reducing the volume of trash, just like in the days of antiquity. This practice of course releases fumes and gases to the atmosphere and consequently poses inherent risks to human health while causing severe pollution to the environment. A case in point are the millions (around 110 million to be exact) of toner cartridges that form part of the e-garbage in the United States annually.
Toner cartridges do not easily decompose. Printer manufacturers made OEM toner cartridges from plastic, a lightweight material that could easily be produced to fit the nuances of a laser printer. Plastic in cartridges is part of a chemical family of polymers that are composed of chains and chains of molecules that are bound together and bombarded with units of carbon atoms. This molecular chain provides the material inherent stability (high molecular weight) that cannot be broken down into simpler components. Therefore, it would take like 500 to 1000 years for plastic to fully decompose when left in landfills. And since the United States discards 110 million cartridges annually, that amount of rubbish could create a pile of garbage as broad as Texas in just a few hundred years.
Scientists in the field are unanimous in saying that the only way to putrefy a plastic material is to revise its chemical composition by way of polymerization / synthesis or simply put to use antioxidants. Consequently, antioxidant level in plastic dictates the rate of degradation or the breakdown of long carbon chains into smaller components. The manner of breakdown for molecular chains is called Anaerobic Biodegradation – a process that allows microbes to break the polymer chain into simpler components of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and facilitates its absorption into the environment. Plastics that decompose through Anaerobic Biodegradation are called biodegradable plastics which will hopefully be used more in the future to rid the gargantuan pile of empty toner cartridges filling landfills.
Actually the use of biodegradable plastic has been implemented with bags and drinking vessels used in supermarkets and shopping centers nationwide. This move is a really noble contribution by various manufacturing giants to help curb pollution and help the environment sustain its the fragile balance. In fact, San Francisco, California already lobbied for the exclusive use biodegradable plastics in the drive to rid the city of questionable trash.
Next time your toner cartridge goes empty, don’t discard it immediately. Instead, exploit the maximum capability of the cartridge with the use of toner refill kits. This way, you save on printer consumable expenses while helping the environment as well.