CARTRIDGE RE-FILLERS TO FLOOD N.CALIF….
CARTRIDGE RE-FILLERS TO FLOOD N.CALIF….
2005-12-14 at 11:19:00 am #13614
Printer-cartridge re-fillers to flood North Bay
December , 2005
NORTH BAY- If you don’t pass a used computer-printer cartridge seller on the way to your supermarket or pharmacy now, you will soon.
Franchised ink and toner cartridge remanufacturers, the bane of the computer-printer manufacturing industry, will be popping up in the North Bay like poppies in the spring.
Two aggressive franchises – one Australian and one U.S.-owned – plan to blanket Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties with retail outlets and pick-up-drop-off points during the coming year.
One is here already. Rapid Refill Ink, part of new chain Rapid Refill Ink International, is collecting cartridges in Whole Foods stores in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol – and soon, Mill Valley.
Owner James Hahn is busy soliciting FedEx Kinko’s, Radio Shack, UPS and Pak Mail outlets for drop-box locations in addition to his retail-refilling operation at 1415 North Dutton Ave. He’ll also pick up and deliver to local businesses.
140 operations by end of next year
As franchise distributor for a territory that stretches from Mendocino to Santa Cruz, Mr. Hahn intends to award 140 new franchises by the end of 2006.|
Founded last year by marine biologist Dan White, Rapid Refill Ink stresses environmental benefits along with the cost savings – up to 70 percent – of reusing cartridges.
Although manufacturers of new cartridges urge users to recycle them, many cartridges end up as waste in Third World countries, according to experts. In villages in Central America and China, villagers earn about $1.50 a day harvesting the toner and metal parts from cartridges, most used only once. The plastic casing is burned, according to research by International Imaging Technology Council, an industry trade organization that follows the issue of cartridge recycling.
“The toxicity is horrendous,” said Tricia Judge, the organization’s executive director.
The Rapid Refill retail stores sound the environmental note in their building material: Wheat stalk walls, crushed sunflower seed counters and carpets containing used milk jugs. The remanufacturing operation is fully automated and includes testing for quality assurance.}
Although Mr. White doesn’t release numbers, he said “margins are good on cartridges,” noting that college towns in general and Northern California in particular are places where people are responsive to the message that they can save money and the environment at the same time.
Depending on their make and usage, some ink jet cartridges can be refilled up to 30 times. Toner cartridges can be rebuilt slightly more often and a few can’t be rebuilt at all because of design, said Rapid Refill’s Mr. Hahn.
Meanwhile, a competing franchise, Cartridge World, was founded in Australia in 1997 and has grown to 1,000 franchises worldwide, with close to 500 in the U.S.
By the end of 2006, the company intends to open over 125 stores in the Bay Area. The first North Bay location will open in Napa this spring.
“We’re especially interested in the Marin County and Santa Rosa markets,” said Cartridge World North America CEO Burt Yarkin. “Our emphasis is on visibility and branding; we want to be a household name, and to that end we’ll open retail stores and kiosks wherever shoppers congregate, as well as provide business-to-business service.
“Santa Rosa can support several franchises, but we want even the smallest towns, like Geyserville, to have one,” he said.
Unlike the Rapid Refill model, with a manufacturing hub serving multiple retail outlets, each Cartridge World franchise will have its own automated refilling, rebuilding and testing equipment.
Franchises $100,000 to $150,000
Franchises cost $100,000 to $150,000 a store, usually requiring a cash outlay of $40,000. Most Cartridge World franchisees own multiple stores and a successful operation can reportedly bring about $80,000 in annual income after an 8 percent franchising fee.
“The cartridge recharging industry has been around for a long time, but hidden from the public in warehouses and industrial parks,” said Mr. Yarkin. “We want to be seen, to make people aware of the fact that there are low-cost, high quality alternatives to buying new and to the significant environmental damage associated with discarded cartridges.”
Some office supply retailers are catching on. Office Max has tested an in-store refilling alternative to its new cartridges. According to spokesman William Bonner, the service will be offered in new Office Max outlets in some parts of the country, but not initially in California.
“We’re responding to customer requests and leveraging some new technology. We still have the one-stop-shop advantage over cartridge franchises,” said Mr. Bonner.
Lexmark, known for its environmentally friendly return program, offers a discount at the point of sale if a customer agrees in writing to return the cartridge to Lexmark. As a further deterrence, the company includes a chip which, should the cartridge be rebuilt, turns off the printer.
HP and Canon operate their own recycling programs.