Print Recovery Concepts in Maine is manufacturing laser printer toner made using soybean oil rather than petroleum products.

One of the biggest distributors of soy-based toner cartridges is LaserMonksGreen, a web site operated by Cistercian monks. As well as funding their abbey, the monks donate $1 to hunger relief, plant a tree in Brazil and say a prayer for their customer every time they sell a cartridge. Their cartridges cost 20% less than the Hewlett-Packard equivalent.

According to Associated Press, recent tests involving identical documents from two identical printers — one with a new Hewlett-Packard cartridge and the other a soy cartridge — produced indistinguishable printouts, equally dark and smudge-proof.

Although soy-based ink is being used successfully in book, magazine and newspaper printing, Hewlett-Packard, which derives much of its profit from petroleum-based toners and inks, told Associated Press that its research suggested that bio-based materials "have not met HP’s high-performance standards and may not be appropriate for many printing applications."

At present, soy-based toners are only available for HP printers. Colour toners and cartridges for other brands of printer are being developed. There is no equivalent for ink-jet cartridges.

We have not been able to find an Australian distributor of soy cartridges. If you know know of one, please let us know in the Comments below.