Our goal is to reduce the consumption of new resources by 25% by 2020 (from the 2007 level). To reach that goal, we utilize materials in the most effective way possible, including minimization of new inputs. We are making our products smaller and lighter, employing parts with longer lifecycles, recycling and reusing parts and products, and expanding the use of renewable resources.
Resource input structure and five reduction measures
The full-color MFPs in the RICOH MP C6003/C5503/C4503/C3503/C3003 series (launched June 2013) are more than 65% lighter than previous models in their class. The series features thinner resin and metal plates, as well as a new, lightweight frame equipped with reinforced surfaces and corners for cabinet solidity.
After repeated simulations to test strength and shock resistance, we successfully lowered body weight from 298 kg to 102 kg. And by redesigning the paper-feed, we were able to integrate a side cabinet with the main unit, resulting in a 37% reduction of the dimensions. Overall, by making it lighter and more compact—and by using recycled and biomass plastic—we have created a product that uses resources more efficiently to place less of a burden on the environment.
Reduction of MFP size: Current and previous generations compared
The Ricoh Group is maximizing use of renewable resources by developing new kinds of recycled materials suitable for imaging equipment.
Most imaging equipment primarily uses steel sheets made in blast furnaces (i.e. sheets made from iron ore), due to the need for thinness, conductivity and ease of processing. Steel sheets produced in electric furnaces (i.e. sheets made principally from steel scrap) are used mainly as construction material. The Ricoh Group, in cooperation with Tokyo Steel Co., Ltd., developed an industry first: electric furnace-made steel sheets that have properties similar to those of blast-furnace steel sheets. These new sheets—comprised of 100% recycled steel scrap—are suitable for imaging machines.
We first used electric-furnace steel sheets to make parts for the imagio MP 9002/7502/6002/6002GP series released in July 2012. In 2013, parts made from electric-furnace steel sheets were also being used in other Ricoh machines sold throughout the world—RICOH MP C8002 SP/C6502 SP.
We are continuing efforts to increase the use of recycled steel in our machines so as to reduce the need for new resources and cut the cost of procurement. To that end, the Ricoh Group has established a “closed loop materials recycling” system for iron*1. This allows us to sell iron recovered from used Ricoh products to steel manufacturers and secure a stable supply of steel sheets.
We are preparing for this possibility by creating more uses for electric-furnace steel sheets. This will allow us to take advantage of scrap iron surpluses and make the program less vulnerable to price fluctuations.
*1 Due to the gap between the total volume produced annually by the steel industry (millions of tons) and the amount Ricoh consumes annually, not all the scrap iron we recycle will find its way back into metal sheets used in our products. We believe we have turned this situation into a virtual closed loop through cooperation with a steel manufacturer. By managing processes from the collection of scrap iron to the production of metal sheets in electric furnaces, we can compensate for the difference between the amount of scrap iron we supply and the amount of metal sheets we purchase.
At Ricoh, resource conservation and recycling has been a pillar of our environmental conservation activities since the early 1990s, and we have emphasized measures to recirculate resources, primarily MFPs collected from the market as well as printers, toner cartridges, ink cartridges and consumable parts. About 170,000 used Ricoh products are collected each year in Japan and all are reused or reapplied*2, mainly as recycled equipment or recycled materials, to effectively utilize resources. Since the sale of our first recycled product in 1997, we have led the industry in expanding the lineup of recycled office equipment. Currently, we are able to meet diverse customer needs with a selection of 17 models from nine series, delivering output from 28 to 50 pages per minute in color and from 25 to 75 pages in black-and-white. In 2011, we began enhancing our domestic recycling sites and have steadily increased the number of recycled products sold.
We are also working to globalize the product reuse business to address the needs of customers not only in Japan but around the world and to provide recycled products matched to specific market requirements. Ricoh Europe PLC, our European sales headquarters, is actively engaged in the sale of pre-owned products. The company offers its customers the GreenLine series of MFPs, which are collected, selected and renewed according to a common standard before being placed with customers again. The number of recycled products sold is steadily increasing. The quality standard for these products is set at a level consistent with the same models currently available on the market, and each and every collected product is carefully checked to ensure quality. Necessary parts are replaced and software is appropriately updated, and only products that meet the established quality standard are certified with the GreenLine label before shipping out to new customers. The GreenLine recycling process has been audited and certified by the global business standards company BSI*3, underpinning external confirmation of product reliability. In addition, the process has been highly rated, including recognition as a best practice for sustainable businesses as reported by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in its “Towards the Circular Economy” report*4.
*2 Recycling rate for MFPs and printers exceeds 99.5%. The volume of parts that cannot be recycled is reduced, averting the landfill, and properly disposed of.
*3 The British Standards Institution
*4 Published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Ricoh has been working for several years on biomass*5 toner, which uses recyclable, plant-based resin as a primary material in the toner for multifunctional copiers. In November 2009, Ricoh released the world’s first MFP equipped with biomass toner—the “for E toner”—with a biomass content*6 of 25%. Creation of the biomass toner involved the development of a new plant-based resin, since unlike conventional plant-based resins used for plastic parts, the resin used for toners must have excellent chargeability and fluidity as well as low-temperature fixing and heat resistance.
*5 Biomass resources are organic resources that are biologically reproducible, excluding fossil resources.
*6 The percentage of plant-derived resins contained in parts is considered biomass and is denoted as “%.”