Printers and copiers around the globe will soon be changed for the better as they will begin to use soy-based toner – an environmentally friendly technology developed in Ohio and most recently recognized by the U.S. Government. The Ohio Soybean Council (OSC), Battelle and Advanced Image Resources (AIR) – key investors in the research, development and commercialization of soy resins and toner – were recently awarded the 2008 Presidential Green Chemistry Award by the EPA.

This new and innovative technology is being commercialized by AIR, a Georgia-based company, and will be available on the market later this year. AIR will produce the soy-based resin that serves as the building block for the new toner, sold under the trade names BioRez and Rezilution.

The EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge promotes research to develop less-toxic alternatives to existing technologies, and to reduce or eliminate waste generated from industrial production. An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society selected winners from the nearly 100 nominations for this recognition.

The research and development of soy-based resins and toner has been funded over the years by Ohio soybean farmers through their monetary contributions to the soybean checkoff program, managed by OSC, and successful work by researchers at Battelle made this new technology possible.

"For many years, OSC has invested Ohio soybean farmers' checkoff dollars at Battelle to develop new industrial uses for soybeans, and soy-based toner is just one example of how these investments are succeeding in creating new markets for Ohio soybean farmers," says Dan Corcoran, OSC chairman.

There are many advantages of soy-based resins and toners. Not only are these products grown, manufactured and distributed in the U.S., but it is a big step to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. With gasoline priced over $4/gal. in the U.S., and no signs of it dropping significantly in the near future, reducing our use of petroleum and petroleum products is an important benefit of using products like soy-based toner, which is made from soybeans that are renewable and domestically produced. Not to mention, this is a huge market opportunity for companies wanting to take advantage of this new technology.

"With more than 400 million pounds of petroleum-derived toners and resins used annually in the U.S. to make 3 trillion copies in photocopiers and printers, there is a great market opportunity for soy-based toners and resins," says Tom Gandolfi, AIR president. "While other soy-based inks have been used in the printing industry for over 15 years, gaining a 30% market share, this new technology is the first of its kind in the laser printer and copier industry."

The biggest environmental problem with conventional toners is the difficulty with which these inks are removed from the paper during recycling. Previous attempts have been made by other companies to develop an environmentally friendly approach to ease the de-inking process, but have failed due to high costs and inadequate performance.

"The innovative technology that Battelle has developed makes the soy-based inks significantly easier to remove from the paper," says Bhima Vijayendran, Battelle polymer center senior program manager. "The result is a higher quality of material recovered that streamlines the recycling process without sacrificing the quality and performance of the toner, and it can be used in any laser printer or copier."

There are also no worries when it comes to the quality and performance of soy-based resins and toners.

"The performance of the soy-based resins and toner is very comparable to traditional petroleum-based products, and has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly," says Gandolfi. "In the past, the laser printer and copier industry didn't have a green solution, but now the soy-based toner will give consumers that alternative."