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 user 2008-10-14 at 12:02:33 pm Views: 274
  • #20601
    Putting Waste to Work
    Forget the landfill. Manufacturers are getting better at finding ways to reuse their waste.
    2008  — With many manufacturing organizations in hot pursuit of lean
    initiatives or corporate sustainability — or both — waste is on the
    run. By definition, lean proponents are taking actions to drive waste
    out of the manufacturing processes. And for companies aiming to shrink
    their impact on the environment, generating less waste and better waste
    management strategies are sure-fire ways to help meet that goal.

    Print Cartridges Get New Life
    InkCycle, a remanufacturer of toner and print cartridges, one could
    argue that it is inherently green in that it reuses spent cartridges
    that might otherwise end up in a landfill. That’s certainly true, at
    least in part, says Brad Roderick, executive vice president. “At the
    end of the day, we are rebuilding on somebody else’s trash.” He points
    out, however, that even remanufactured products at some point reach the
    end of their usable life.

    InkCycle, an ink and toner cartridge
    remanufac-turer, has instituted measures to reduce the amount of waste
    it generates, including implementing a water filtration process for
    InkCycle’s waste-reduction effort is part of an overall
    business model that aims to be sustainable. For example, the company is
    converting its gasoline-powered automotive fleet to hybrid vehicles;
    pursues a “print less, save the planet” internal campaign; and it has
    changed many of its manufacturing operations from five shorter days to
    four longer days to reduce energy usage. On the toner cartridge side,
    the company has found ways to modify the manufacturing process to reuse
    the original components a greater number of times. Environmentally
    friendlier, for sure, but also a cost savings, Roderick notes.

    financial side of sustainability is something Roderick emphasizes. For
    sustainability to have long-term momentum, “it has to be based on
    financial considerations,” he says. Introducing more efficient climate
    control systems that also lower operational expenses over the long
    term, for example, fit the bill.

    The company’s waste-reduction
    efforts include an on-site wastewater treatment facility to treat the
    huge amounts of water and steam needed to thoroughly clean and prepare
    used inkjet cartridges for remanufacturing. It was introduced both
    because InkCycle “wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing”
    and as a defensive strategy, Roderick says. He notes that while the
    company was easily meeting environmental guidelines prior to the
    treatment facility, legislation could change and rewrite those rules.
    InkCycle wanted to be ahead of any new regulations.

    wastewater treatment process used by InkCycle is called
    electrocoagulation. Describing it in simple terms, Roderick says that
    as wastewater passes through the treatment system, chemicals and solid
    materials are “shocked” out of the system using electricity and
    chemistry, with the sediment falling to the bottom of a holding tank.
    The sludge goes to an EPA-licensed disposal site, while some of the
    treated water then can be reused in the cleaning process of the used
    inkjet cartridges.

    InkCycle recently introduced a new product
    line called Grenk, which the company says extends its efforts to
    reduce, reuse and recycle products that might otherwise end up in
    landfills. The company has developed a new use for Grenk’s plastic
    cartridge housings once they have reached the end of their reusable
    life. It’s as fuel, but not for InkCycle. Instead the company worked
    with LaFarge North America and its subsidiary Systech Environmental
    Corp. to turn those plastic housings into fuel for the production of

    These Torit filters are made from 100% recycled General Motors filters and paint.
    they need in the production of cement is a lot of heat. The way they
    generate that is typically through the burning of fossil fuels, so
    [they want] material that is of high BTU value,” Roderick says. Given
    the petroleum-based nature of plastic, InkCycle’s Grenk cartridges
    proved to be a viable candidate to help the cement furnaces offset some
    of the fossil fuel needs. The cartridges are disassembled and shredded
    before they are used as fuel.

    The entire Grenk production and
    packaging process has been developed with environmental sustainability
    in mind, as well. Indeed, InkCycle says the packaging boxes are made
    from the highest available content of recycled material and are
    chain-of-custody certified. Shredded paper in the boxes are the test
    prints run from each cartridge before they ship. Additional measures
    help assure that no part of the Grenk product line need end up in a
    landfill. Of course, a little customer participation is required. “But
    we make it very easy for them to return [used cartridges].”

    is quick to admit that attracting new customers is a big driver behind
    its introduction of Grenk, even as it pursues a sustainable business
    model. Roderick explains that not only are there thousands of companies
    that remanufacture printer cartridges, making it a commodity purchase,
    but also many companies are resistant to even contemplating the
    purchase of aftermarket products. “But when we learn they have an
    environmental initiative, it’s one call to the person in charge of
    their environmental initiative and… there’s almost a 100% opportunity
    rate of going in and talking to those companies about the green side
    and the financial side of [remanufactured cartridges].”InkCycle
    calculates it has kept 225 tons of waste materials out of landfills
    through its reuse and recycling efforts in the past year.

    Taking Knowledge to China
    heavily regulated lead acid battery industry has a well-established
    closed-loop recycling program that has led to significant reclaiming
    and reuse of spent batteries. Manufacturer Johnson Controls estimates
    that it and its supply-chain partners recapture 95% to 98% of the lead
    weight in spent batteries, which is reprocessed for use in new
    automotive and marine batteries, and more than 70% of the resin, which
    also finds its way into new batteries. Sulfuric acid, another component
    of lead acid batteries, primarily is treated in a wastewater treatment
    plant and neutralized, or it can be processed into sodium sulfate for
    use by other industries.

    Still, the company looks to improve
    those yields. “It’s improvements in technology that continue to allow
    us to find more and more yield opportunities to get higher yields out
    of the plastic recapture, out of the lead recapture, and looking for
    new and different ways to recapture sulfuric acid as it becomes a much
    more expensive commodity,” says Brian Kesseler, Johnson Controls’ vice
    president and general manager of power solutions for the Americas.
    Improvements in technology have led to the introduction of the
    PowerFrame manufacturing process, which the company says is more
    efficient, generates less scrap and requires less lead for the

    Johnson Controls is sharing its best practices in
    closed-loop battery recycling with China. In the summer of 2007, the
    company toured smelters in Europe and North America with Chinese
    government officials and discussed how the entire recycling process
    works. “We were really up front with the Chinese government to help
    them learn some best practices that the markets in the U.S. and western
    Europe have spent years refining,” Kesseler says.