The development of soy-based toners has greatly streamlined the process of recycling paper and has the potential to reduce significantly the environmental footprint of waste paper.
Of all the trees felled in the world annually, 35 percent of them are used in the production of paper. Prior to recycling, 35 percent of municipal solid waste was paper and paper products. As a result, recycling paper has a considerable environmental impact by reducing the trees used, by reducing landfill use, and by drastically reducing the energy and water required to produce virgin paper. Fortunately, paper is one of the easiest commodities to recycle.
In order to recycle paper, first it must be sorted to separate office paper waste from newsprint, magazines, paper board, and corrugated cardboard. Then, the ink on the paper must be removed before the paper can be reused. This deinking step is the most challenging part of recycling since laser printers are designed to fuse the toner tightly to the paper, making it difficult to remove. Toner, itself, is mostly composed of synthetic resins derived from petroleum feedstocks.
With the dual goals of facilitating the deinking process and producing a non-petroleum-based toner, Battelle partnered with the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and Advanced Image Resources (AIR) to develop bio-based toners. These toners were made from soy oil, soy protein, and corn carbohydrates and may be used in both office printers and office copiers. Because the toners were designed to react optimally with existing deinking procedure, no modifications were required to make the process work with the new toners. Deinking with the new toners is more efficient than with the traditional petroleum-based toners, and it results in higher quality recycled material and a streamlined recycling process.
Battelle, Ohio Soybean Council, and Advanced Image Resources, Inc., won an R&D Magazine R&D 100 award in 2003 for their soy-based toners, recognizing this technology as one of the top 100 around the world for that year. They also received a 2008 Presidential Green Chemistry Award in the Greener Synthetic Pathways (http://www.epa.gov/gcc/pubs/pgcc/winners/gspa08.html ) division recognizing their environmentally benign solution to the growing problem of waste paper generated from copiers and printers.
Additional information about these soy-based toners can be found at http://www.battelle.org/SPOTLIGHT/GREEN%202-11-10green3.aspx