Printing That Won’t Cost The Earth

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain's startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

Weaning users off their personal printers, and eliminating abandoned documents from the print tray are the key stps to greening hard copy, says Lexmark’s Béatrice Marneffe

beatricemarneffe.jpg

Nothing is more visible than the printer as a source of materials wastage in the office. Every day reams of paper appear in the out tray awaiting collection and packs of refill paper and replacement cartridges stand as witness to the constant cycle of usage.

Consequently the printer industry receives more than its fair share of criticism and the manufacturers are becoming more proactive and creative regarding sustainability issues. Cartridge recycling is heavily promoted and duplex printing is often a default setting on office systems – reducing paper use by printing on both sides. There is also plenty of advice available on further reducing wastage such as carefully selecting emails and cutting and pasting only essential information for printouts.

Some go even further and at Lexmark sustainability concerns has led to the creation of the role of director of sustainable affairs held by Béatrice Marneffe.
Her role has two parts, she says. The first is to influence and keep track of regulatory issues as they pass through the European Union’s law-making process and alert Lexmark’s engineering and design teams to any changes that may affect its business practices. The second element is relaying Lexmark’s sustainability policies to its staff and customers. Education is a major part of Marneffe’s role and has led to the printer company publishing advice on how to “think before you print”.

Moving beyond the obvious methods of paper-usage economies, the Lexmark philosophy is to help create an efficient, secure and environmentally responsible environment. Marneffe suggests that personal printers should be discouraged and replaced by sensibly architected print stations. “Desktop printers are rarely in constant use and power savings can be substantial when shared printers are introduced,” she said.

Weaning users off personal printers

This can create user resistance and the most common counter argument is that finding printouts in a stack of multiple-user print runs is time-consuming and security is compromised when sensitive documents appear in an open-access out tray. The Lexmark answer is to use a print delay facility so that documents are not processed until the user visits the print station.

Submitted documents are securely stored within the printer until a user identifies themselves. This may be by typing in a PIN number or for easier access can be by secure cards, proximity badges or even ID passes used for buildings security. Only then is the printing process executed. A preset expiry time is allocated on receipt of a document and any uncollected print jobs will be securely deleted if the time limit is exceeded.