Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

SFU School of Sustainable Energy Engineering students created a refillable ink cartridge system for home printers. The product, SustainInk, is designed to “turn a traditional ink cartridge printer into a reusable, refillable ink reservoir.” 

SustainInk hopes to cut down on waste in landfills by eliminating the need for ink cartridges and making home-printing affordable for students.

Project lead Eddy Sanderson reported the team is using a 3D printer with biodegradable material to create the cartridges. The SustainInk reservoirs’ material can be biodegraded in 80 days in a commercial facility.

“We’re looking at trying to make a different kind of ink that is based out of algae so that it’s carbon negative,” added Sanderson.

According to Sanderson, many standard “printer cartridges aren’t properly recycled because some of the inks contain heavy metals that [can’t] be broken down properly — a lot of them end up in landfills where they further contaminate water systems.” Currently 20–30% of ink cartridges are recycled.

“We’re trying to remove the landfill aspect.” 

SustainInk is also focused on “looking at how to make printing more accessible for students because it’s extremely cost prohibitive.” According to Sanderson, printer cartridges have a 700% markup in the market. Alternative reports have stated the “average markup on ink cartridges is 1,000% to 2,000%.”

Sanderson explained once consumers buy a company’s printer, “[they’re] forced to continue to buy the same refills for that system. So it kind of strongholds you into a cycle of having to spend more than it’s actually worth.”

Their study found that the yearly cost of printing is roughly $700 of ink cartridges, whereas SustainInk could print the same amount for under $50 a year.

Ink reservoir printers start at roughly $800, said Sanderson. 

This project was inspired by the shift to online learning due to COVID-19. Many of the SustainInk team members had to purchase at-home printers. They quickly found that “buying an ink refill was almost as much as buying a new printer, which is not sustainable.”

The team responsible for SynthaSift includes SFU students Akash Bains, Ryan Cordoni, Erin Flood, Alia Gola, Dana Kadoura, and Aiden Rudy.

More information on SustainInk can be found on YouTube