The European Commission has backed a voluntary agreement by the major computer printer manufacturers to "green" their industry.

The self-regulatory measure of the industry sets targets for reducing the carbon footprint of printing and copying in the EU, covering energy efficiency of devices, ink and paper use, and recycling of devices and ink cartridges.

Manufacturers have also agreed to undertake measures to encourage the use of duplex (double-sided) and "N-up" printing (several pages on one sheet) to save paper.

Those signing up to the agreement include Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson Europe, Hewlett Packard, Konica Minolta, Kyocera Mita, Lexmark, Murata Machinery, Oki, Panasonic, Ricoh, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and Xerox.

The Commission said: "The voluntary agreement has undergone a thorough impact assessment and we have concluded that it could be considered equivalent to binding regulations adopted under the EU's 2009 Ecodesign Directive."

The printer companies have set up the EuroVAprint organisation so that their efforts can be collectively checked and evaluated by third parties.

"We welcome the Commission's endorsement of our voluntary agreement in the context of the Ecodesign Directive," said William Dazy, chairman of EuroVAprint.

"We are looking forward to further cooperation with the EU institutions in this area."

Last month the University of Nottingham said it would slash costs and create a greener printing operation after signing a £9.2 million managed services deal with Xerox.