Soy, the other black ink

Soy toner could catch on in office use

Agencies on the march to go green have another way to cut petroleum use and enhance recycling: use soybean-oil toner for printing. In a trend that is slowly gaining momentum, some publishers have switched to soy-based printing, and office printing could follow.

Soy cartridges cost less than new petroleum-based cartridges, although they still cost more than refilled regular cartridges. Soy also makes paper used for printing easier to recycle, because the toner is easier to break down. And it’s nutritious.

On the down side, soy toner, a dry powder, only works in laser printers, so you’re out of luck if you’re using an inkjet. And at the moment, soy toner only comes in black.

Companies such as PRC Technologies are producing soy toner, and a major distributor is, run by Cistercian monks in Sparta, Wis. The monks, who also sell other merchandise, use the money to support their abbey and donate funds to charity.

Analysts say it takes about two liters of petroleum to make a pound of toner and that U.S. public and private organizations use about 100 million cartridges a year. Although soy toner wouldn’t be good for all printing, there’s still a lot of room to replace petroleum products with an environmentally friendly, renewable resource. And when the inevitable mistake happens, it will be easier to eat your words.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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