Lexington, Ky. – At a glance, the pavement put down recently outside a building at Lexmark’s corporate headquarters in Lexington, Ky., looks no different from typical asphalt. But at Lexmark, it represents an opportunistic solution to an old problem — what to do with leftover toner — and for the asphalt and printer industries, it could mean a major development in sustainability.
Put simply, the asphalt contains more than 9,000 pounds of toner captured from what remains in recycled printer cartridges.
The parking lot on Lexmark’s Lexington campus is the first commercial application in North America of a product called TonerPave, which uses the same toner powder used in Lexmark printers to make asphalt — and possibly make it better.
“We have been trying to find an efficient way to reuse and recycle toner for well over 10 years,” said John Gagel, corporate manager, sustainability. “TonerPave is an efficient and effective manner in which to recycle toner. We’re now demonstrating that we have a solution that can be utilized in a sustainable manner. It’s part of the circular economy.”
Partnership with Close the Loop
TonerPave was developed by Lexmark’s longtime sustainability partner Close the Loop, an Australia-based company that recycles printer cartridges from Lexmark and other companies at its plants, including one in Hebron, Ky. Close the Loop has been partnered with Lexmark for more than 15 years and is the world’s largest recycling and resource recovery company for imaging consumables.
Lexmark has been working on toner reuse and recycling options, but no other post-market solution could be found for it except in a “waste-to-energy” scenario, in which the toner is used as fuel in waste facilities to generate electricity.
Lexmark turned to Close the Loop to see whether it could help. From there, Close the Loop developed an asphalt additive, a composite incorporating waste toner and other recycled materials called modified toner polymer, or MTP. The new additive improves the asphalt quality and performance, with an environmental benefit of producing low-carbon asphalt at no additional cost. Thus was born TonerPave.
By the numbers, for each 1,000 pounds of asphalt, there are 50 pounds of binder. In the new product, 5 pounds of the binder are MTP, of which 4.75 pounds, or 95 percent, are recycled toner.
The product has been used in Australia since last year; the Lexmark parking lot is the first commercial use in North America.
If long-term observations of TonerPave bear out the results from the past year, it could prove to be an asphalt improvement for equal value. Performance of the pavement used in the Lexmark paving project will be evaluated over time and compared to the traditional asphalt control.
“We are able to provide a product that does not increase the raw material cost of laying asphalt pavement,” said Dean Vukovic, Close the Loop’s director of business development. “This is the model we have successfully built in Australia and expect no different in the U.S. market.”
Close the Loop has already begun work on the next generation of TonerPave which will further advance the sustainability and performance benefits through the incorporation of rubber from recycled tires.