Epson stops laser printers to save the planet: a good example of greenwashing
Epson announced that it would no longer sell laser printers from 2026, either on the consumer market, but also on the professional market. Why ? The first reason given by Epson, a subsidiary of the Japanese giant Seiko, is sustainability and the ecological aspect.
“While laser printers work by heating and fusing toner ink onto a page, inkjet technology works without heat and consumes less electricity by using mechanical energy to fire the ink onto the page. ”summarizes Koichi Kubota, director of sales and marketing for Epson.
Less energy-intensive and less fragile inkjet
Indeed, the differences between these two processes are well known, and we notice it with each laser printer test: the moment when the printer preheats generates a peak of electrical consumption, often beyond 200 W, when the electricity consumed during the printing of an inkjet page rarely exceeds 20 W.
Epson has looked into the matter and, according to the conclusions of an internal study based on the standard printing of 20 pages, estimates that inkjet printing generates up to 85% less CO2 equivalent than the laser. Too bad, this study remains quite opaque. We do not know, for example, which specific printer models are used by the brand to make its comparisons and calculations.
Another argument put forward by the manufacturer: inkjet printers are less subject to maintenance. This also pleads in favor of a better ecological “yield”. Again, Epson cites an internal study that inkjet printers “result in up to 59% fewer part changes than laser models”.
A history of accelerated obsolescence
Therefore, can we believe in the good faith of Epson in the quest for a better ecological balance sheet? After all, the company has planned to invest more than $700 million to fund its “sustainable and green” ambitions.
As reminded our colleagues fromArs-Technica, Epson is not known to assume particularly virtuous policies for the environment. Just a few months ago, the company was the target of complaints from users whose inkjet printers stopped working due to allegedly full ink pads. However, in fact, these printers could still print perfectly and their buffers were far from overflowing.
If the brand assumed that it was a normal operation of its printers to avoid any ink leakage, customers and consumer protection associations did not fail to criticize the design of printers giving pride of place to planned obsolescence. Indeed, how many users have finally bought a new printer faced with a model refusing to print for such a trivial reason, when they were in possession of a device that could have continued to function at little cost.
Ink, a lucrative business
A state of affairs encouraged by printers sometimes sold at a loss, but on which the manufacturers make up for it by selling ink cartridges – a lot of ink cartridges! In the EMEA zone alone (Europe, Middle East and Africa), more than 350 million cartridges are sold every year. And the ink is expensive, very expensive! Indeed, it is one of the most expensive liquids in the world, far ahead of Dom Pérignon champagne or perfume No. 5 by Chanel.
The reality is that Epson – like other printer manufacturers – needs to sell its models and consumables, in a market logic. Here, by communicating on the discontinuation of its laser printers, the brand seeks above all to green its image. Because you should know that the laser printer market is down and that, on the latter, Epson is far from playing the leading roles. The five biggest sellers of laser printers are, in fact, Brother, Canon, Dell, HP and Konica Minolta.
We therefore prefer when Epson facilitates the reset of its printers to allow them to continue to operate or when the brand highlights its program for recycling old printers that are really non-functional and used cartridges. We would also like Epson to facilitate maintenance operations accessible to the general public, by providing manuals, spare parts and tools. These remain, unfortunately, often difficult to find, including for independent repairers.
Finally, let’s finish by recalling that accelerated or planned obsolescence is a classic on the printer market. Epson is not the only manufacturer to have been attacked on the subject, far from it. The Hop association had, in 2017, filed a complaint against Brother, Canon, Epson and HP on this ground. We also remember the HP business, which blocked the use of unofficial cartridges, or even Canon, which deactivated the scanner of printers that had run out of ink.