Pelikan Contributes to Print’s Expanding Biodegradable Paradigm

Environmentally friendly consumables continue to need a makeover



John Shane, Renée Clarke



In Spring 2020, Pelikan released a line of BioBased print cartridges that continue to be among the most unique recent innovations in toner and toner cartridge technology as well as sustainable action. Pelikan’s offering has four main sustainability components:

  1. Pelikan claims the toner to be 48% BioBased plastic.
  2. The cartridge housing is biodegradable, should the cartridge be thrown into landfill.
  3. Cartridges are sold to resellers under an agreement to recollect the cartridges from the customer and return to Pelikan for recycling. Though the company is uncertain how many are thrown out, it strongly suspects it will receive more returned cartridges than other new-build-compatible producers do.
  4. Should a remanufacturer wish to collect to remanufacture, the cartridges are made of standard components, but this eventuality is unlikely.


Since last year’s launch, the BioBased cartridges have been the forerunner alternative to standard OEM cartridges or other third-party cartridges, which tend to use 100% fossil fuel-derived materials in the plastic components. Pelikan’s CEO Steve Weedon told us that their cartridges appeal to environmentally focused customers (still a niche market, unfortunately)—those serious about reducing company or office footprint, and willing to go the extra step to recycle cartridges as these are only sold via resellers that commit to collection of the empties for return to Pelikan. This tends to be the case in larger companies, as this type of customer is likely to expand with growing EU environmental regulations and sustainable values on the rise, which could also drive more manufacturers to focus on creating similar technologies.


To achieve the TÜV bio-based certification that Pelikan has, the product must have at least a 20% bio-based product composition. Several manufacturers have attempted this, but they cannot surpass the entry marker. Pelikan’s cartridges include a 48% bio-based toner and 57% bio-based plastics, which are easily decomposable should they go to landfill.


Pelikan claims that they will begin to decompose sometime between 90 and 180 days at 60°F and 90% humidity. Pelikan notes that high intensity polystyrene models, which are used for most original OEM cartridges, take hundreds of years. The company also claims that with the print performance unaffected and the overall cost 25% cheaper on average than original OEM non-biodegradable models, implementing more of this technology could quantitatively boost the appeal of sustainable consumables.


Pelikan wishes, under their reseller program, to collect as many of these cartridges back from the customer as possible. However, they are aware that getting 100% recollections is likely not possible. As such, they note that the cartridges can be remanufactured by other remanufacturers. Should the cartridge ultimately end up in landfill, either as a virgin empty or after being remanufactured, they will decompose.


The imaging supplied industry has viewed sustainability as a key requirement for many years. OEMs have offered their users collection programs for empty cartridges for many years, though we expect that few ever get most of their cartridges back for recycling.


Remanufacturing has for years been promoted as a green alternative to OEM cartridges because the cartridge is used again. However, as Pelikan notes, and Keypoint Intelligence research confirms, a significant majority of remanufactured cartridges ultimately end up being thrown out. And newly built compatible cartridges almost always are thrown in the trash when empty.


Due to multiple convergences, OEMs have been looking at other approaches to selling supplies and being sustainable. HP Instant Ink is an excellent example of a program that reduces waste and results in the company recollecting the empty supplies. Epson pioneered the idea of eliminating cartridges altogether with the EcoTank line of printers.


Pelikan’s BioBased cartridges are a new and unique approach to improving the environmental sustainability of office printing. It’s not known at this time if this strategy will become a major source of improved sustainability in the industry—but it is a new approach.


It is gratifying to see the imaging supplies industry taking multiple approaches to sustainability. It is Keypoint Intelligence’s opinion that the supplies industry is already doing much better than many other industries in this regard. If one were to consider toothpaste tubes or household spray cans, toner and ink cartridges are almost certainly recollected for recycling at a greater rate. And we expect that sustainability will become of greater importance to vendors and users in the coming years.


At present, there are seven products on Pelikan’s BioBased monochrome list. Color and inkjet models are in the works. We are excited to see if Pelikan’s biodegradable cartridges become a new paradigm in sustainable production.



OEM Part Number




Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 35A Black (CB435A)



Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 36A Black (CB436A)



Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 78A Black (CE278A)



Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 83A Black (CF283A)



Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 83X Black (CF283X)



Pelikan Bio Based Laser Toner replaces HP 85A Black (CE285A)