When I was at Ecosa, one of the coolest projects we did was a redesign of ink cartridge packaging, which is absurdly wasteful. In many cases it took up more plastic than the cartridge itself. We learned that this was a theft-prevention measure as, amazingly, they were the number one theft item at the Staples we did our reaserch at. We also learned about a local company that would refill almost any ink cartrige for you for a fee (less than buying new) which seemed like both a great eco-friendly idea and a great business!
Anyway, I got to thinking about the demand for these things, which, given the amount of spam I recieve on the subject has to be monumental. I came up with a crazy business idea to sell them from vending machines with extremely minimal packaging made of whatever recycled material was at hand. The same vending machines could take-back your empties and give you new ones at some kind of discount. And the thing could be solar powered, etc…. I still think it’s a good idea for highly urban areas where people might walk from their offices to a machine, but for most of America, it might not work so well.
Enter “Cartridge World“…
These guys have managed to build a pretty massive business offering refills for almost any kind of ink cartridges at an astonishing 1000+ locations all over the world. Based in Australia, they estimate they’ll keep 9 million ink cartridges out of landfills this year. They offer the following ten resons to use refilled cartridges:
1. It takes nearly a gallon (3-1/2 quarts) of oil to produce a new laser printer cartridge, and 2-1/2 ounces of oil to manufacture each new inkjet cartridge.
2. In the United States, printer cartridges are thrown away at a rate of eight per second and this is expected to increase by 12% annually.
3. More than 350 million printer cartridges go into North American landfills every year.
4. The total weight of cartridges thrown away each year in this country is equivalent to 67,612 Ford Explorers or 112,463 Volkswagen Beetles.
5. In a single year, the world’s discarded cartridges stacked end-to-end would circle the earth three times.
6. Most printer cartridges contain mixed resin plastics, the most difficult type of plastic to recycle.
7. Toner residue can seldom be completely separated from the cartridge’s plastic, thus contaminating the plastic and making it even less likely to be recycled.
8. A laser printer cartridge thrown into a landfill can take up to 450 years to decompose (while components made of industrial-grade plastic will take over a thousand years).
9. Reusing printer cartridges saves energy and the natural resources used to produce power while reducing greenhouse gases.
10. Every reused cartridge saves nearly 3.5 pounds of solid waste from being deposited into landfills.
I don’t know anything about what packaging they use (if any), but if they steal my vending machine idea I want some credit!