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 user 2007-10-17 at 12:16:00 pm Views: 58
  • #18861

    Keeping cartridges out of the landfill
    Dartmouth company finds success recycling.
    Don MacKinnon started recycling printer ribbons 15 years ago, he didn’t
    get into it to save the planet. He saw it as an opportunity to make a
    buck.”I saw niche,” said the president of Ribbons Recycled Inc. “People
    were throwing away mountains of printer ribbon and it occurred to me
    there might be a way to re-ink and reuse them. It was all about the
    cost factor. The emphasis on the environment came later.”The early
    experiments with re-inking the ribbon fabric began in the bathroom of
    his Dartmouth home. It took a while to figure out how to do it
    efficiently with oil-based inks, but he said like any good
    entrepreneur, he never gave up.Once he had perfected the technique he
    began collecting the used ribbon from businesses and reselling
    customers refurbished units at a discounted rate. As the business grew
    he hired staff to carry out the refurbishing and remanufacturing.When
    ribbon technology gave way to ink-jet cartridges, Mr. MacKinnon
    developed a way to reuse those. And now as ink-jet cartridges are
    making way for their laser printer cousins, they too are being recycled.

    Mr. MacKinnon is quiet about the company’s success. He grudgingly shows
    off his spacious 9,000-square-foot Dartmouth warehouse where 10
    employees refurbish and then test more than 5,000 cartridges a
    month.Another dozen to 15 workers are on the road selling and
    collecting cartridges from commercial clients, or working with the
    public through the company’s 10 retail Inkjet X-Change locations
    scattered throughout the region.”There are a number of companies that
    are recycling ink-jets or laser cartridges in the province, but most do
    it as a sideline to something else. As far as I know, we are the only
    company devoted to doing it full time.”

    Mr. MacKinnon said he
    long ago gave up trying to guess how many tonnes of plastic and metals
    his business has diverted from the landfill, but environmental websites
    in the U.S. estimate that every year over 300 million ink-jet
    cartridges are thrown away. Stacked from end to end, this would extend
    for more than 39,000 kilometres — enough to circle the earth.No one in
    Nova Scotia tracks those kinds of numbers, but Mr. MacKinnon knows
    there are a lot more that could be diverted. He suggests his business
    and those like his still only keep one in 10 cartridges out of the
    landfill.”I know they don’t like them at the landfill. There’s a nasty
    pop of black ink when they are crushed.”With proper care, he said a
    cartridge can be successfully refilled several times, but eventually
    cartridges will fail for reasons other than being out of ink. He said
    they are surprisingly fragile and manufacturers are making them
    increasingly difficult to reuse.

    Island Ink Jet is another
    company that helps keep ink cartridges out of the landfill by offering
    refurbishing services. At various times the company has had as many as
    three locations around Halifax, but the lone location at the moment is
    at Mic Mac Mall. Graham McEwan is the franchise holder.Island Ink Jet
    is a North American franchise with close to 230 locations.This is the
    second in a series of Small Business Week stories looking at Nova
    Scotia companies finding a green niche.