Printers, and especially inkjet printers, do not consume very high amounts of electricity. Yet, as all other IT equipment they contain critical and hazardous materials, and their typical lifetime is short and in decline. The poor durability and high cost of repair of current printers results in these products being treated nearly as disposable commodities by consumers. Cartridges are also a source of substantial material waste. It is estimated that 60 to 70% of discarded cartridges still end up in landfills or incinerators.

About 25 million units of imaging equipment were sold in the EU in 2016. The total electricity consumption of this product group is around 5 TWh/year, but the major environmental “hot spots” come from the production phase and the use of consumables for printing. Take a look at our blog post on the environmental impact of printers here.


Due to the relatively limited electricity consumption of printers, these devices have so far escaped mandatory EU regulation. The printer industry has proposed to engage in a voluntary initiative that the European Commission agreed to endorse in 2013.

However, serious doubts remain as to whether this self-initiative is delivering more than business-as-usual and more effectively than a regulation, notably with respect to material efficiency.

A review study launched by the EU in 2018 highlights weaknesses in the scope of the industry initiative and the resource efficiency requirements, as well as ambiguous provisions and issues in the way the initiative is managed and operated.

The EU is expected to discuss and decide in 2020 whether the industry initiative should be pursued, strengthened, or maybe replaced by regulation.


  • Replace the current industry-led initiative on printers by a tougher and stricter regulatory approach, or at the very least force the industry to considerably reinforce its initiative;
  • Address the durability, repairability and recyclability of printers in a much more comprehensive way, through stricter and verifiable requirements;
  • Cover cartridges in a more straightforward way, with provisions to allow easy refill and reuse, as well as increased recycling rates.

Coolproducts technical input and position papers:

2021 – Comments on the proposed update to the industry voluntary agreement on imaging equipment

2020 – Imaging Equipment: Position on the Proposed Update to the Voluntary Agreement

2019 – Comments on the review study related to imaging equipment Voluntary Agreement

2009 – Position of ECOS, EEB, Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF-EPO, INFORSE-Europe and CAN-Europe on the proposed Voluntary Initiative Agreements on Imaging Equipment and Complex Set Top Boxes


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With the support of thr European Union (LIFE Programme and European COmmission). This work reflects the author's views and does not commit donors.