In Sydney, Australia they're paving roads with printer toner

  • Toshiba said this week that it hit a record in 2017 of recycled toner products: 228 metric tons of used toner.
  • One use of the spent toner is reduce rutting and cracking on roads with a product called TonerPave, created by Australian infrastructure company, Downer.
  • The asphalt consists of toner powder, wax, minerals, pigments, iron oxide, silica, and sometimes, waste acrylic paint.
Sydney - September 16, 2014: Resurfacing of Watkin Street, Newtown, using ashphalt containing recycled printer toner (photo by Jamie Williams/City of Sydney)

Reduce, reuse, repave — at least, that's what printer companies are doing with Australian roads.

Toshiba said this week that it hit a record in 2017 for recycled toner products: 228 metric tons of used toner.

One use of the spent toner is to reduce rutting and cracking on roads with a product called TonerPave, created by Australian infrastructure company Downer.

The asphalt consists of toner powder, wax, minerals, pigments, iron oxide, silica, and sometimes waste acrylic paint.

The city of Sydney first tested the product in 2010 and has recycled more than 20,000 tons of cartridge waste since 2012. The city estimates that the toner asphalt reduces emissions by 40 percent compared to conventional asphalt.

Other printer companies like Lexmark and Kyocera also participate through an organization called Close the Loop.

Roads aren't the only way to reuse the printer parts. Cartridges can also be used to make park benches, and toner supplies can be repurposed as pens and rulers. HP toner cartridges are made out of recycled water bottles and hangers, and printers are also recycled by Best Buy.

Toshiba said that printer parts can also be used for eLumber, some of which is donated to Habitat to Humanity to make planter boxes.

E-waste remains a huge problem worldwide: A report from United Nations University and members of industry found that only 20 percent of e-waste generated is documented to be collected and recycled, with the region around Australia having the lowest volume of output, but the highest ratio of e-waste per person.

But Toshiba's vice president of product and solutions marketing, Joe Contreras, said that the company has gotten positive feedback for allowing clients to recycle any printer part — not just Toshiba's — in bins Toshiba provides. That zero-waste program turns 10 this year.

"They see we are really committed by doing something like that," he said.