Like many people I have a printer at home. It’s a Canon 3660, it’s simple, easy to use and was cheap to buy. My kids will be returning to school in a couple of weeks (at the time of writing) and the printer has run out of ink. Not wanting to have to rush to the shops for ink once the school term has begun yesterday I went to Big W to buy some more ink. Not the most engaging story I know but bear with me.
As I studied the pricing of the ink and the stack of Canon 3660’s sitting a couple of meters away, a horrible realisation dawned on me. It would be cheaper to buy a new printer rather than replacement cartridges. A new printer, as standard, comes with the cartridges I needed. The black ink cartridge would be $26 AUD, the colour would be $27 AUD, a total of $53 AUD but a new printer, with those cartridges would be $49 AUD.
Don’t believe me? See below.
This is an horrific state of affairs. Just think about the amount of resources that go into a new printer, all the energy, raw materials, packaging, labour and transportation that is required. Then compare that to the ink and its small plastic container. In the West we are living in a reality where it saves you money to be a wasteful arsehole and throw away resources. It would be better for me to throw away a perfectly functional printer, to throw away those precious resources into a landfill, than it would be to buy ink. In fact I could buy all the printers Big W sell, extract their cartridges, sell them at a cheaper price than Big W and still make a profit. In a world where there are still huge numbers of people starving and without the basics I take for granted this is not only wasteful, it is immoral.
But here’s the real moral problem. I don’t know how to solve this. I want cheaper products, I have kids to feed and clothe like everyone else. I want the benefits that capitalism and technology has brought us. But is this sort of thing right? Do we really want a world where we are encouraged to waste resources on such a scale? Maybe the printers shouldn’t be so cheap, maybe ink should be cheaper, I don’t know but I don’t like having to make a moral decision when I want to print something from the internet.