REUSE , NOT REFUSE
REUSE , NOT REFUSE
2006-05-31 at 10:31:00 am #15607
Reuse, not refuse
Did you know that 300 million printer cartridges come to their final resting place in the nation’s landfills each year? Or that it takes roughly a gallon of oil to produce the plastic in a laser printer cartridge?New businesses are hoping to profit on these dramatic environmental impacts and persuade customers into remanufacturing or refilling cartridges locally. In doing so, those customers will also save money.Fort Collins is now home to three new printer cartridge refilling and remanufacturing stores, and their message is hard to ignore.PrintOne, a printer cartridge remanufacturing operation founded and based in Fort Collins, opened its first store at 1538 E. Harmony Road a year ago. In April, PrintOne opened an Old Town location at 130 S. College Ave., and the company recently franchised a third store in Colorado Springs.”The concept is pretty powerful from an environmental standpoint,” said Matt Ottenberg, president of PrintOne. “We recycle everything – not just cartridges, but paper and cardboard, too. In addition, we can offer great savings over new cartridges, and we’re a locally owned business.”Cartridge World, a worldwide cartridge refilling franchise that started several years ago in Australia and now operates more than 400 stores in the United States, licensed its first Fort Collins franchise at 2614 S. Timberline Road in April.”There is no downside to what we do,” said Steve Page, who co-owns the local Cartridge World franchise with his wife, Patti. “This is a good thing environmentally and from a cost-savings standpoint. Our customers get a high degree of quality and a high degree of value.”There’s nothing new about printer cartridge remanufacturing and recycling. Laser printer cartridges have been remanufactured for more than 12 years. However, as quality has been an issue, new products have continued to dominate the industry.In the past, recycling often meant eco-conscious businesses merely returned their spent cartridges to manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard in pre-paid shipping boxes, never sure of their ultimate fate.Hewlett-Packard, the long-time leader in printer cartridge sales, says it has been recycling those cartridges for 14 years through the company’s HP Planet Partners Program.In a written statement, Tuan Tran, Hewlett-Packard’s, vice president of marketing of imaging and printing supplies, said more than 112 million HP LaserJet and HP inkjet print cartridges have been returned and recycled worldwide since the program began.”No HP print cartridges returned through the Planet Partners program are sent to landfill,” Tran said. “Plastics and metals from recycled HP print cartridges have been used to make a range of everyday new products.”What’s different about the new generation of cartridge recycling, refilling and remanufacturing businesses is that their products are 100 percent guaranteed to satisfy consumers, they stay local, and they’re used again and again until they no longer serve their purpose.What is profoundly new about the industry is the unlikely return of customer service to a business that has become as faceless as buying music online.”PrintOne provides a face to the customer and a real place to go to discuss your printing needs,” Ottenberg said. “We provide knowledgeable staff members who can match your needs to what the printing market has to offer.”PrintOne’s model involves setting up a centralized “banner store” that serves as a hub for satellite stores within a given region. Fort Collins is the prototype for PrintOne’s concept.One of PrintOne’s Fort Collins stores will not only serve as the centralized remanufacturing site for Northern Colorado; it will someday provide store management, supply chain assistance and logistics for stores in Windsor and Loveland. The company plans a complete build-out of the Northern Colorado market by the end of 2007.”PrintOne has many franchise prospects,” Ottenberg said. “We will stay in Colorado initially, but we have national and global ambitions.”The concept for PrintOne came about a couple of years ago in discussions among a group of local businessmen. Together, they saw an unfilled niche in remanufactured printer consumables.”Several things struck us,” Ottenberg said. “First, there was no established market leader. Second, nobody was focused on the environmental side of the business. And third, this was a big market, measured in billions. We looked at industry models and saw an opportunity.”Ottenberg estimates the market for printer consumables, including laser and inkjet cartridges, at $45 billion annually, whereas the remanufactured segment is about $6 billion.PrintOne’s remanufacture process, which they consider proprietary, takes three days and involves inspection, cleaning, refilling, testing and packaging of cartridges. But that doesn’t mean customers must wait three days to get their cartridges back.”Typically, if you bring a cartridge to PrintOne, you’ll receive credit for the cartridge and then pull a remanufactured cartridge off the shelf for about 30 percent less than a new cartridge,” Ottenberg said.Within a a few days, your original cartridge might end up back on the shelf, fully remanufactured and ready for another customer.Not only does this divert solid waste from the landfill – it cuts down on fuel use associated with shipping cartridges across the country for recycling or remanufacture.Steve and Patti Page opened their Fort Collins Cartridge World franchise in April. Cartridge World is the world’s largest provider of cartridge refilling services, with more than 1,100 stores in 27 countries.The Pages believe that as printers become more affordable and ink and toner costs increase, the refillable cartridge business is likely to grow.Cartridge World’s process involves examining the cartridge for suitability, damage or electronic problems; removing old ink and refilling with compatible ink; and testing the cartridge to OEM standards or better.”We take care of it here and now,” Page said. “We refill and remanufacture everything in house. There’s no delay between when people want something and when they get it. People run out of ink at the worst times. They call us, and when they get here, we’ll likely have a cartridge waiting for them.”HP’s Tran is confident that new competitors in the printer cartridge industry don’t pose a threat to his company’s market dominance.”We’ve seen after-market competitors come and go all while we maintained a healthy business and market share,” Tran said. “We’ve found that customers who opt for less-reliable alternatives may find themselves with cartridges that don’t work after they get them home or with paper jams due to clogged nozzles – problems that are often associated with refilled cartridges and generic inks.”Trans said HP believes it is up to customers to decide which solution is best for them, but there will always be some segment of the population that is willing to accept trade-offs in quality and reliability to save a little money.To Mary Golden, a faithful PrintOne customer, the quality of remanufactured cartridges is fine and the savings are too significant to ignore. Golden operates the Hope Lives Breast Cancer Support Center in Fort Collins. The nonprofit organization does most of its printing in-house and goes through four to eight cartridges each month.”We’re a very small nonprofit,” Golden said. “The savings is just huge for us – easily $100 per month.”Page echoes her sentiment.”Quality printing and saving money never go out of style,” Page said. “There really is no risk to using us. We guarantee our products meet OEM standards. If there is a problem, we’ll give you your money back or replace the cartridge. Whatever it takes to make it right.”The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it would take about 450 years for a laser cartridge to break down in a landfill. Laser printer cartridges account for more than 90 percent of the throwaway cartridges deposited in landfills.