The sky-high price of printer ink – measure for measure more expensive than vintage champagne – has been well documented. Less well-known is the fact that the amount of ink in the average cartridge has shrunk dramatically. “Newer cartridges contain a fraction of the ink a similar product contained a decade ago,” Dyckhoff says. “The amount can be minuscule.”
For example, the Epson T032 colour cartridge (released in 2002) is the same size as the Epson colour T089 (released in 2008). But the T032 contains 16ml of ink and the T089 contains just 3.5ml of ink. It’s a similar story with Hewlett Packard (HP) cartridges. A decade ago, the best-selling HP cartridge had 42ml of ink and sold for about £20. Today, the standard printer cartridges made by HP may contain as little as 5ml of ink but sell for about £13.
XL cartridges are an “insult” to the consumer, says Patrick Stead of cartridge recycler Environmental Business Products: “HP sells half-full cartridges, then sticks an ‘XL’ on, fills them up, and sells them for even more money. The difference in manufacturing costs is pennies. It’s a shocking rip-off.”