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 user 2005-10-04 at 10:52:00 am Views: 121
  • #13001

    Schools transform empty ink cartridges into cash

    At Florence
    Markofer Elementary in Elk Grove, empty printer ink and toner
    cartridges were turned into international phone calls to military
    service members

    Like thousands of schools
    are doing nationwide as a fast and low-maintenance fundraiser, Markofer
    parents collected the cartridges to send to a broker – who in turn paid
    the school and then sold the cartridges to manufacturers for
    Dawn Saborio, who ran the fundraiser for the PTA, said Markofer raised
    $1,400 last year from sending hundreds of cartridges. The money was
    used to buy calling cards for Markofer families with relatives serving
    overseas in the military.
    Each cartridge was logged in by hand by Saborio, who doesn’t own a
    computer or printer. Besides advertising the project to the students’
    parents, Saborio solicited her personal connections, including her own
    dentist’s office.
    School fundraising season is here. Students are barely through the
    doors on the first day back before someone from the PTA is handing out
    the details of this year’s offerings – entertainment and coupon books,
    gift-wrapping paper, candy. It’s a $2 billion-a-year enterprise,
    according to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors &
    Suppliers, and it’s been growing steadily over the years as a way to
    help pay for classroom supplies and extracurricular activities.
    To ease the pressure on children – and their parents’ checkbooks -
    schools are finding they can make money from technological trash.
    Thanks to a $30 billion third-party ink cartridge industry, the
    everyday process of printers running out of ink can turn into another
    stream of cash.
    The empty printer cartridges are valuable to manufacturers because they can be refilled and sold at discounted prices.
    Companies such as Colorado-based Cartridges for Kids serve as the
    middleman, offering from 25 cents to $12 a cartridge, depending on
    market value. The companies also have expanded into recycling cell
    Last year, schools nationwide raised more than $1.7 million – about
    $300,000 in California – by sending about 1.8 million cartridges and
    cell phones to Cartridges for Kids.
    Barbara Crawford, program director for Cartridges for Kids, said
    schools are especially attractive to brokers because of the access to a
    network of families and businesses, the potential to teach children
    about recycling and the need for schools to supplement their budgets.
    Greg Daley, who in 2004 ran for the Rocklin school board on a platform
    that included recycling, started a program at Twin Oaks Elementary,
    which his two daughters attend. He said the money was used for art
    supplies and computer mouse pads.
    “It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “For an effortless amount of work, we generated $440 at that one elementary school.”
    The growth in the remanufacturing industry has precipitated a growth in
    schools’ awareness of the program. Susan Pack, an Elk Grove mother,
    said that two years ago she hadn’t heard of any schools recycling
    Now Pack works as a representative for Cartridge for Kids, keeping in
    contact with about 100 schools in the Elk Grove, Woodland and
    Greenhaven areas.
    Pack also markets cookie selling to schools. Cookies are more lucrative
    than cartridges, she said, but cartridges can be collected throughout
    the year, and they don’t require cash-strapped families to shell out
    more money.
    “When I approach the schools, I guess I make them feel dumb if they don’t choose to do it,” she said.
    In areas where families may not have computers and printers, school
    officials say they look beyond campus boundaries. Kate Bishop, who is
    the child welfare and attendance coordinator for the North Sacramento
    School District, said she plans to target her business partners.
    “A lot of my families don’t have the technology,” Bishop said.
    She hopes to raise as much as $750 for her Developing Resiliency
    Through Education, the Arts and Mentoring Project, a foundation that
    funds activities and field trips for needy children.
    “It won’t be a huge amount of money,” she said, “but it’ll be enough to send one class to an ocean.”