Resource Conservation and Recycling

To achieve the goal of reducing the new input of resources by 25% by 2020 from the 2007 level, we work to utilize resources in the most effective way possible and minimize the use of non-recycled virgin resources during production. To this end, we are actively engaged in the development of alternative materials, use of renewable resources, reuse of used parts, recycling, waste reduction, and other efforts. We believe that these efforts are important initiatives that play a part in mitigating the risks of resource depletion and deforestation.
In addition, we are taking initiatives to develop technologies for recycling water and resources used during production processes.

Promotion of the recycling business

Recycling efforts are worthless if they result in increases in related costs and environmental impact. The Ricoh Group develops products and components that are easy to recycle and reuse, develops new recycling technologies, develops and expands the network for collecting used products, and conducts many other activities while aiming to improve profitability and decrease environmental impact in this business area.

Recycled copiers

Extensive lineup of recycled copiers:
17 models from 9 series

Extensive lineup of recycled copiers: 17 models from 9 series

Ricoh has adopted resource conservation and recycling as one of the pillars of its environmental conservation activities since the early 1990s, and has been working on the recycling of collected MFPs, laser printers, toner cartridges, and supplies. More than 200,000 units of our used products are collected each year, and fully recycled or reused.
Since the release of its first recycled copier in 1997, Ricoh has expanded its lineup more actively than any other company to offer a wide variety of recycled machines. The latest recycled full-color copier, the imagio MP C4000RC/C2800RC series, was launched in May, 2012.
To meet the various needs of customers, Ricoh offers 17 models from 9 series of recycled copiers with a copying capacity ranging from 28 to 50 pages per minute (color) and from 25 to 75 pages (monochrome).

imagio MP C4000RC        * As of May 2012, assessed by Ricoh
imagio MP C4000RC *As of May 2012, assessed by Ricoh

Collecting used products, then reusing and recycling parts

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Recyclable design

Incorporating the ease of recycling into product design

Recyclable design is an essential approach to promoting resource conservation and product recycling. To introduce recyclable design, an organization that is now known as the Design for Environment Workshop was established in 1993. The workshop formulated the company's first recyclable design policy based on the Comet Circle, and has built up know-how in various areas, such as the grading of plastic mould parts, strength design considering future reuse as well as the reduction of packaging materials, the reuse of high value-added parts, recycling of high-quality materials, and improvement in the ease of disassembling and sorting.
After designing MFPs and printers, designers carry out recyclable design self-assessments to make necessary improvements, and in doing so, the consideration that designers impart to recycling has already become a part of their core design process.

Recyclable design front cover

Recyclable design front cover

Recycling technologies

Technology for forecasting used product collection volumes
Making contributions to well-planned sales of recycled copiers

Ricoh has developed a new technique for forecasting the volume of used products to be collected from the market. Given the nature of the products and the fact that recycled copiers are made from collected used copiers, an accurate collection volume forecast is particularly important to conduct this business in a well-planned manner. Using related data in our customer data base such as headcounts and numbers of copies printed, we prepare detailed forecasts, e.g., number of units, types of models, how many copies printed and which region they will be collected from, and during which period (monthly, semi-annually, annually). Such forecasts allow us to develop and implement plans on product design, development, production, and sales.

Collection volume forecast

Collection volume forecast

Dry washing technology
Stain removal without the use of water

Recycling can never be labeled effective if it generates a significant impact on the environment. Based on this recognition, Ricoh has been making solid progress in developing resource-recirculating production systems. The development of original dry washing technology is among the latest examples of these systems.
To recycle parts stained with toner, we previously employed an ultrasonic cleaning process that required the use of water, which inevitably involved wastewater treatment and energy consumption to dry the washed parts. With the newly developed technology, which cleans to a quality comparable to ultrasonic cleaning processes, toner stains are scraped off the parts by blasting them with tiny sheets of film, rather than water, at high speed. This new technology has been in practical use since 2007, mainly in the organic photoconductor unit cartridge recycling process both in Japan and overseas, and has led to considerably shorter operation times and less energy use than wastewater treatment and drying processes.

Dry washing technology / Separation and discharge of residue

For more details

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Development of recycled materials and use of renewable resources

To reduce new resource input, we are striving to develop recycled materials and use more renewable resources while aiming to improve profitability and decrease environmental impact.

Using recycled materials

Electric furnace steel sheets
Using steel sheets made of 100% steel scrap to produce parts for MFPs

Using steel sheets made of 100% steel scrap to produce parts for multifunctional copiersMFP part using electric furnace steel sheets

Using steel sheets made of 100% steel scrap to produce parts for multifunctional copiersElectric furnace at Tokyo Steel

Ricoh became the first office equipment manufacturer to develop electric furnace steel sheets1 with properties required for use in office equipment parts. The steel sheets, jointly developed with Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (Tokyo Steel), are used in parts for the imagio MP 9002/7502/6002/6002GP series released in July 2012.
Traditionally, electric furnace steel sheets were used for construction purposes due to their high strength. The newly developed steel sheets attain a sufficient level of quality features that are required for the production of office equipment, namely, suitable width (a thickness of 2 mm or less), electrical conductivity and ease of processing.
In its joint development activities, Ricoh identified necessary material properties and Tokyo Steel then worked to meet those properties by reducing thickness, achieving thinner plating, improving electrical conductivity and ease of processing, and adding more improvements.
Combined with Tokyo Steel's advanced impurity-removal and rolling technologies, the joint development project succeeded in manufacturing high-performance steel sheets to be used for office equipment.
Currently, application of the new steel sheets is limited to specifically selected parts due to a lower ductility level than blast furnace steel sheets2. Despite this limitation, Ricoh believes that using electric furnace steel sheets, or recycled steel sheets, carries significant meaning, particularly considering the finite availability of natural resources. As its next step, Ricoh will continue joint development efforts with Tokyo Steel, aiming to improve the properties of the materials.

  • 1.Steel sheets normally made of 100% steel scrap
  • 2.Steel sheets made of pig iron extracted by an iron ore reduction reaction

Interview

Joint development of the industry's first electric furnace steel sheets for MFPs

Gaku Ito
Gaku Ito
Manager
Sales Department
Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd.

While many customers use electric furnace steel sheets because of their price rather than their quality, Ricoh has focused on the environmental friendliness of the products, and presented us with a joint development opportunity. The biggest challenge we faced was the time constraint. We were fully confident that our engineers would be able to overcome the technical challenges involved but were not sure if we could make it by the agreed deadline. What enabled us to complete this tough project within the demanding time frame we were given was our unwavering passion for the project; we shared with Ricoh the belief that we should and will develop environmentally friendly materials.
I think it is fair to say the development of this electric furnace steel sheet for application to MFPs is a testament of our world's best technological capabilities in this field. I hope the success of this project will demonstrate the high performance and value of electric furnace steel sheets and attract greater market attention. Tokyo Steel looks forward to continuing and expanding its collaboration with Ricoh in the recycling of steel sheets and many other initiatives.

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Use of renewable resources

Metal-catalyst-free polymerization of PLA at low temperatures
Development of a technology to spur the use of biomass resources

Development of a technology to spur the use of biomass resourcesPolylactic acid produced under this new technology

In cooperation with Shizuoka University, in 2012 Ricoh succeeded in developing a new technology that enables the polymerization1 of polylactic acid (PLA) at low temperatures without the use of a metal catalyst. Through the use of this technology, PLA, an attention-grabbing bio-plastic compound made from biomass (i.e., plant)-based materials, can be produced using hyperbaric CO2 or supercritical2 carbon dioxide, and organic molecule catalysts. As it does not require the use of organic solvents or metal catalysts, this technology allows the production of PLA in a safe, high-quality, and low-cost manner.
Under traditional methods, which take several hours to complete, the polymerization process requires a tin-based catalyst and involves high temperatures (about 200 °C). The new technology, however, has eliminated the need for metal catalysts, achieved polymerization at a low temperature (lower than 100°C), and has even succeeded in allowing continuous polymerization.
As its applications are not only limited to image equipment but to wide areas involving the use of plastics, this new technology is expected to spur the use of biomass resources in various fields.

  • 1.Polymerization is a process whereby two or more small-molecule chemical compounds (whether of the same type or different types) are bonded chemically to form a high-molecular-weight compound.
  • 2."Supercritical" refers to a state where a material is held at or above its critical temperature and pressure. It is difficult to determine the state of a supercritical material, whether gas or liquid, as such materials can be diffused like a gas and also dissolved like a liquid.

Biomass toner
Development of toner made from plant-based renewable materials

Every year, more than 200,000 tons of toner is produced worldwide, with about 80% being resin. To lessen the environmental impact of producing toner, Ricoh has been developing a biomass1 toner, for which we adopted a plant-based resin.
The biomass toner requires less petroleum than conventional toner, and contributes to the prevention of petroleum depletion. Being carbon-neutral, biomass toner works to reduce the net amount of CO2 emitted from the combustion of used toner.
In November 2009, Ricoh released the world's first MFP, imagio MP 6001GP, featuring biomass toner, the "for E toner," with a biomass content2 of 25%.
The development of this new biomass toner involved the creation of a new plant-based resin, since unlike conventional plant-based resins used for molding, the resin used for toners needs to have excellent chargeability and fluidity as well as low-temperature fixing and heat resistance at the same time.

  • 1.Biomass resources are organic resources that are biologically reproducible, excluding fossil resources.
  • 2.Ricoh utilizes the biomass content in percentages to indicate how much biomass is contained in the parts.

Biomass toner

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