Lexmark is attempting to use the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act to restrict remanufacturing of their cartridges. A
cartridge placed in a Lexmark printer must undergo “a secret
handshake” before the printer will recognize the cartridge
as an “authorized Lexmark cartridge.” If this secret
handshake is not completed, then the cartridge will not be allowed
to print. Static Control, according to Lexmark, has developed a
‘killer chip’ that engages in this secret handshake.
Static Control does so in order that used Lexmark cartridges may
be remanufactured and reused in a Lexmark printer. Lexmark seeks
to prohibit unauthorized remanufacturing.
Lexmark’s killer chip is in direct opposition
to common public policies aimed at reducing and eliminating waste.
Far from designing out waste, Lexmark’s intentionally designs
its products to become waste. This is definitely not in the public
interest. GRRN awarded Lexmark our first WasteMaker Award in 1998
for Lexmark’s Prebate program (still operating), which uses
a price discount to get customers to agree not to refill their cartridges.
Prebate, like killer chips, has the effect of thwarting printer
GRRN promotes eliminating pollution and waste through
extended producer responsibility (EPR) and product redesign. GRRN
believes that the single greatest barrier to achieving zero waste
in the United States is the absence of EPR, the principle that brand
owners must take responsibility for the life cycle impacts of their
products, from product design to end-of-life management. Assignment
of full product responsibility, which is increasingly common in
Europe and other OECD countries, provides a strong incentive for
manufacturers like Lexmark to design products for reuse and recycling.
GRRN endorses the goals set forth in the recent
WEEE directive from the European Union. The European Union requires
producers to take responsibility for their own waste and ensure
that their products are collected and properly recycled or remanufactured
at end-of-life. We support such initiatives. Lexmark’s Prebate
and killer chip programs do not constitute taking responsibility
for their waste. The WEEE directive also provides in pertinent part
that strategies such as that used by Lexmark are outlawed (see Article
Reuse through remanufacturing is in the public
interest because it saves energy and materials needed to make new
products. Remanufacturers take used toner cartridges, replace worn
out components, and add new toner, allowing the cartridge to be
reused. Through remanufacturing, a cartridge can be used time and
again in its original form.
Remanufacturing is more environmentally friendly
than recycling. A remanufacturer takes the cartridge in its existing
form, and reuses most of the components as they were originally
constructed. Relatively little additional energy is needed to prepare
a cartridge for additional use. Recycling, by contrast often results
in the components of a cartridge being melted down into its constituent
plastics and metals and then reused. Far more energy and resources
are used in recycling a toner cartridge then in remanufacturing
it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized this
distinction, and the superiority of remanufacturing in its publication
WasteWise Update from May of 1997.
While we support Lexmark’s attempts to ‘recycle’
cartridges returned to them, we note that many cartridges currently
end up in Eastern Asia where primitive methods of extracting materials
of value create appalling impacts on human health and local environments.
Lexmark has stated in court that perhaps only 10 percent (or less) of cartridges
it produces under the Prebate marketing program are of the type that can be
readily remanufactured. We are equally dismayed that Lexmark actively
of the cartridges that are otherwise destined for the landfills.