ME and Ophelia

Thursday, January 29, 2004


Is good for the environment and reduces mindless waste

My brand new, all-in-one Epson scanner, photo-copier and colour printer looks smart and runs well. When it arrived via Dell, I marvelled at its quality but was suspicious of the price. How could Epson produce, ship and profit from a super machine, at such low cost to the customer? It seemed too good to be true.

A set of colour ink refills cost £20+. You can only use Epson refills. The printer contains a chip that flags up an alert when the cartridges are nearing empty. You need to replace the cartridges before they are empty, or the machine won't function. Which means you can't use up all the ink you've paid for. I'm told by other users that the printer won't allow you to ignore it when the cartridges need replacing: it simply stops printing; and that Epson's guarantee becomes invalid if you try to use any other brand of cartridge.

On January 25, 2004, Jim O'Connell wrote the following post on hacking your Epson printer, quote: "Here's a link to a Japanese site for hacking your inkjet printer to use a set of bigger, cheaper (I assume) bottles of ink. The reason you can buy an inkjet printer so cheaply is that the manufacturers expect to make all of their profit by selling tiny cartridges of ink at exhorbitant prices. Some manufacturers have gone so far as to include a chip in their own cartridges to keep users from buying cheaper third-party ink cartridges. This clever modification seems to just keep the original cartridge topped off, using a hole in the top and those added black rubber tubes you see in the photos." (Via John on the Japan Photo Mailing List)

It seems to me that hacking your Epson printer would be good for the environment and help reduce mindless waste. Here's why. If Epson users who do lot of printing, "hacked" their printer, their savings on not buying Epson ink cartridges would eventually pay for a new printer. In other words, it'd be easier and cheaper to disregard Epson's chip and guarantee. When things go wrong (by which time the guarantee may have expired anyway) users could bin their Epson machine and spend the savings on a new Epson printer. As with many products these days, it's more cost effective to buy new than it is to get something repaired. And, even if you did not mind the cost, who is willing and able to fix any of these things, especially the equipment with imbedded chips?

In time, if enough users did this, would get the message because their ink cartridge market would "dry up". And, as Epson would not be making enough profit on the sale of printers, they'd have to do something about the mad game they're playing with consumers and the environment.

A huge number of people around the world do make an effort to sort their rubbish for recycling. Paper, glass, metal and organic matter. But what becomes of all the plastic? Those plastic made Epson printers and non-refillable cartridges? Office equipment, gadgets, TVs, radios, VCRs, childrens toys, household appliances, etc. Where does it all go? The waste is amazing. How many more decades can this go on for? And how come it's still allowed to go on? Who is doing something about manufacturers turning us into a throw-away society that's creating mountains of ugly waste and deadly pollution around the world?

Don't you think that hacking your printer is good for the environment? I do. That's why I love Jim's post (and the picture!) Thanks Jim :)
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Updated Thu Jan 29 20:43 PM: Further to Peter Barr-Watson's comments in this post, here's my contribution to his great idea for a meme: ink rip-off. Make it viral. Pass it on!

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 1/29/2004
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