*NEWS*STATE OF THE TONER INK INDUSTRY/2004-10-01
*NEWS*STATE OF THE TONER INK INDUSTRY/2004-10-01
2013-06-23 at 8:53:28 pm #2178
State of the Industry Opinion and Comment
What Began as a rag tag business in garages, basements, and back bedrooms has grown into a respectable multibillion dollar sector of the imaging industry. Ink jet and toner cartridge remanufacturing continues to expand robustly on six of the world’s seven continents.
Proof of this growth is in the bustling trade shows that have evolved in Las Vegas, Nevada; Barcelona, Spain; Miami, Florida; and Queensland, Australia. Rechargers elsewhere in the world are rapidly building forums in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
At each of these events, you’ll find enthusiastic entrepreneurial ventures that range in size from the classic Mom and Pop firms that define a cottage industry, to the million dollar corporations that either process more than 50,000 cartridges per month, or supply toner, ink, and machine parts to others.
The industry continues to fight for each percentage point of aftermarket share that it can win away from OEM (original equipment maker) accounts. It’s a bitter struggle that proceeds on many front–price, promotion, quality, legislative, legal, and patent action, to name the most dynamic.
What started with "drill-and-fill" rechargers in the mid-1980s has also matured into a well-organized affiliation of trade groups in North America, Europe, and Australia that share remanufacturing methods, inspection, and test procedures, tools, and marketing strategies.
Rechargers worldwide have closed ranks behind the trade associations–International Imaging Technology Council (I-ITC) in Las Vegas, Nevada; the European Toner & Inkjet Remanufacturers Association (ETIRA) in Brussels, Belgium; and, the Australasian Cartridge Remanufacturers’ Association (ACRA) in Pennant Hills, NSW, Australia–they are moving forward with a strong voice and are acting in unison to protect their flourishing businesses.
As the OEMs fight back by introducing new machine models at a breakneck pace and by developing ever more devious anti-recycling strategies and electronic lock-out chips, remanufacturers today are responding with their own innovative solutions, patents, legislative lobbying, and anti-trust countermoves.
The issues today include Static Control’s court battles with Lexmark, and developments in Australia and New Zealand that enable the reuse of worn, unremanufacturable cartridge casings and other plastic waste by granulating and molding these materials into planks, beams, and other architectural shapes. These building materials are rugged, attractive, and extremely weatherproof; they are being sold as benches, piers, boardwalks, outdoor signs, and other products.
Outstanding among today’s issues is a global resolve to raise the quality of remanufactured cartridges and to make these products more readily available to the consumer. Toward this latter objective, ink jet cartridge refilling stations are springing up in shopping malls in the US and abroad. They offer a fast refill at a low price that not only eases the cost burden of operating a desktop color printer at home, but demonstrates to the public that there is a more affordable alternative to the costly ink cartridges that OEMS would have them used just once and then discarded.
Indeed, nothing the cartridge remanufacturing industry has done over the past two decades will be as effective in winning a greater share of the aftermarket business than the inkjet refill and laser cartridge remanufacturing stations popping up like spring flowers. This new enterprise is being led by Australian-based Cartridge World, a new organization which already has more than 500 franchised retail shops and mall stations worldwide, and by another franchise group, Canadian-based Island Ink Jet Systems, Inc. They hold the promise of reshaping the cartridge aftermarket by changing con-sumer buying habits worldwide.
OEMs are countering by devising new schemes and strategies to capture spent cartridges and keep them out of the hands of the rechargers. One of these is Lexmark’s infamous PreBate® program which pays the consumer an up front cash discount for agreeing to return the spent cartridge.
More recently, in what appears to be a journey into sheer lunacy, OEMs have convinced and paid some environmentalist groups to collect spent cartridges and return them to the manufacturer. Most notable among these are Planet Ark and Close the Loop, both in Australia. These “environmentalists” have got it all wrong. Perhaps they were blinded by the corporate dollars the OEMs have donated. They mistakenly believe they are going to save the landfills by collecting all of the spent cartridges and having them ground up and recycled.
What these well-meaning groups don’t realize is that by capturing the cartridges and sending them back to the OEMs, they are acting as quislings, helping to perpetrate a plot to defeat the remanufacturing movement.
In short, what these misguided environmental groups are doing runs against today’s consumer demands for greater corporate social responsibility. And finally, it disregards the fact that before a cartridge casing is discarded by a recharger, it has been refurbished, recharged and resold anywhere from 3 to 10 times.
These spent cores are the lifeblood of the rechargers. The bottom line is that the OEMs are effectively using these environmental groups in a scheme–under the cloak of being ecologically responsible–to get rid of the cores, the empty cartridges, that are essential to the remanufacturing community.
In my opinion, the cartridge remanufacturing industry has built a strong infrastructure and its members are helping each other by pooling their skills. They are setting higher quality standards each year and gaining more favor in the marketplace. In short, the state-of-the-industry is strong, healthy, prosperous, and headed for expansion in the months and years ahead.
* Post was edited: 2004-10-01 10:40:00