Role of Private Sector in Waste Reduction Program
Presented by: Print-Rite Management Services Co. Ltd.
Date: Nov, 1998
Based on information gathered from the Hong Kong government, Hong Kong is running out of land for waste disposal and its landfills will be exhausted by the year 2015. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed, so as to lengthen the life span of the existing landfills.
Nowadays, recycling plays an important role on waste reduction and environmental protection worldwide. As mentioned in the Waste Reduction Framework Plan 1998-2007, waste recovery, recycling and re-use is one of the major issues on Waste Management Action Areas. Yet, in toner cartridge industry, remanufacturing is eminently superior to recycling. Recycling provides a way to reduce waste and conserve material, while remanufacturing not only minimizes waste, but also promotes employment, saves money and prevents pollution.
Print-Rite Management Services Co. Ltd., is a typical medium size enterprise based in Hong Kong and its subsidiaries have been participating in remanufactured toner cartridges industry since 1992. Its experience in the industry can somehow reflect the current situation and the role of private sector on waste reduction program.
Contribution of Remanufactured Toner Cartridges
For every cartridge that is remanufactured, approximately 2.5 pounds of plastic, steel, aluminum and rubber are withheld from the waste stream. Printer cartridges are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or high-impact polystyrene (HIPS). Facsimile machines or photocopiers have cartridges made of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). The plastic used in these cartridges is industrial-grade and does not degrade. According to Thomas Nosker, director of Rutgers University Center for Plastics Recycling Research, "If that plastic is left in a landfill, and then dug up in one thousand years, it will still be intact. It won't change its properties over time."1
As laser toner printers and copiers are common commodities to be found in many offices in Hong Kong, lots of laser toner cartridges is consumed each year. According to statistics from IDC (International Data Corporation), it is projected that in the year 1998, there will have around 62,000pcs of brand new laser printers sold in Hong Kong.2 Assumed that one toner cartridge will be consumed by one printer each month, only those new laser printers will use up 744,000pcs of toner cartridges each year. If one cartridge occupies one seat in Hong Kong Coliseum, they will fully occupy 60 Hong Kong Coliseums! On the other hand, this means around 1,860,000 pounds of plastic will be dumped into landfill in 1998 which are basically undegradable!
Reusable Rates of Various Parts of Used Toner Cartridges
Could the low remanufacturing rates due to the low reusable rates of the various toner cartridges parts? Fig. 1 illustrates the reusable rate of various parts of used toner cartridges, which were collected by Print-Rite from January to June 1998. Most of the main components have a reusable rate of over 80%, while the undegradable cartridge shells have a reusable rate of over 90%. Yet, few things have been done to save these usable and valuable materials from dumping.
Analysis on Hong Kong
The general users are either not aware of the possibility on recycling the toner cartridges or cannot conveniently find a source to recycle their cartridges. Not only to remanufactured toner cartridges, rarely does general public know how to recycle various kind of used materials other than paper.
After so many years of advocacy, the recognition on waste reduction or recycling is yet very low. Consumers, especially domestic consumers, do not have the intention and are not motivated to take action on waste segregation or recycling. There are only limited housing estates provide separate rubbish bins to facilitate domestic waste segregation. For those office consumers, paper recycling might have attained more attention, the awareness on other materials recycling such as toner cartridges recycling and remanufacturing is still low. Though some might want to save these recyclable materials from landfills, few know the channel to do so.
Recycling or remanufacturing used materials are mainly run by private companies. Nowadays, the recycling industry is facing hard time to maintain their business. The industry obtains limited support from the government and the general public. Some paper recycling factories found it difficult to sustain profit and were forced to shut down. Concordia Paper Ltd. was one of the outstanding examples. In tradition, general public labels recycling or remanufacturing as a lower rank industry. Thus it is essential to educate consumers on recycling and remanufacturing.
The image of the industry has to be upgraded as professional and specialized industry. For example, recycled materials must conform to standards and specification of new materials. Remanufactured products have to achieve its quality on a par with OEM products. Government could align with some private companies in recycling and remanufacturing industry in promoting this.
Analysis on other Developed Countries
How about the situation right now in other developed countries? The US President Bill Clinton issued an executive order in 1993 that mandated federal preferential purchasing policies for products that benefit the environment. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has included remanufactured toner cartridges on the list of preferred products.
As listed in Fig. 2, there are around 6,000 toner cartridge remanufacturing companies which provide more than 33,000 job opportunities in the United States. More encouragingly, the industry is able to remanufacture 24 million cartridges and saves 75,000,000 pounds (i.e. 38,000 tonnes) of plastic and other materials from landfill each year. The average remanufacturer restores 338 cartridges per month, and is therefore saving 845 pounds of hazardous waste from landfills each month.3
Regarding general remanufacturing industry, it is estimated that there are around 70,000 remanufacturing companies across the United States, employing close to half a million people.4 Remanufacturing could be a great force in both economically and environmentally speaking. By restoring discarded products to active use, turning waste into useful products, remanufacturers recapture most of the materials, energy and labor that would have been permanently lost if disposal really takes place. More importantly, remanufacturing reduces the burden of waste disposal.
Actually, remanufacturing or recycling is a specialized and organized industry in many developed countries. Given remanufactured toner industry as an example, there are trade magazines like Recharger Magazine (from United States) and Recycler (from UK). These magazines provide the latest industry news and updated technology on remanufacturing / recycling office products. Recharger magazine also supports a web site for dealers and distribution to acquire used cartridges.
International or regional exhibitions and trade shows concerning remanufacturing and recycling are held each year in many places. World Expo, one of the largest international exhibitions for the office products remanufacturing industry, is held each year in the United States and attracts thousands of manufacturers and traders. Around eighty seminars and lecturers are held during the show period, demonstrating and updating the participants with the latest and most advance technology.
Germany is another world leader on environmental protection. Germany adopts "polluter pays" philosophy. The Green Dot (Duales System Deutschland - DSD) is a system for the collection and recycling of sales packaging used for retail products sold in Germany. German manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of consumer goods are involved in the system. The goal is to ultimately remove as much recyclable materials from the waste stream as possible. The strict packaging laws require German companies to retain responsibility for product packaging after it has been sold. In 1997, German consumers placed 5,600,000 tonnes of used sales packaging in Green Dot collection containers. This is equivalent to 89% of the sales packaging from households and small businesses. Within which, 5.45 million tonnes (86%) of recyclable materials were sorted out of the waste.5
While American label environmental products as "green", the German label them as "blue". Since 1970's, The German Federal Environmental Agency promotes the "Blue Angel" environmental label program. "Blue Angel" is a license that allows private sectors to promote their products as environmental friendly ones after being reviewed and selected by authorized Environmental Label jury. Not only does it help greatly in the conservation of the planet and the reservation of resources, the Blue Angel program is believed to be one of the most successful programs in promoting sales by the private sector.
Action To Be Taken
The Government and the private sectors play an important role in the waste reduction arena. While the Government can help to create an environment that favors recycling and conservation, the recycling and remanufacturing industries can practically help to minimize the amount of waste that goes into the landfill. Remanufacturers also recapture most of the materials, energy and labor spent in the production of the original products and thus providing great savings and creating job opportunities for the general public.
Fig. 3 illustrates the general product life cycle of toner cartridges under current situation. It shows that only a small portion of the single-used toner cartridges are remanufactured while the majority of them are dumped into the landfills. Most of the single-use cartridges are disposed to landfills, only small amount of toner cartridges is remanufactured. Fig. 4, on the other hand, illustrates the suggested scenario of toner cartridges life cycle. The disposal rate of toner cartridges is greatly reduced as most of the used cartridges are being collected and remanufactured.
Hence, it is essential to encourage the involvement of private sector by the Government. At present, the situation is not quite favorable to private sector involvement. The waste segregation and recycling channels for households and general offices are not developed yet, this creates barrier to recycling and remanufacturing industry. After many years of advocacy and education from Hong Kong Government and environmental organization, the general public generally acknowledges the necessities of environmental protection. Nevertheless, they are mostly lack of knowledge on recycling. Of course, the urgency and action is beyond their concern.
To encourage the participation of general public in recycling and remanufacturing, the first step is to educate them, arouse their intention, motivate them and thus promote action.
To educate general public and arouse their attention. The most common question asked by the general public is: What could be recycled? Take an example in toner cartridges industry, not many people know that toner cartridges could be recycled, and not surprisingly, they will not know what can be done in order to recycle their cartridges.
Nowadays, waste segregation could be diversified into paper, plastic, aluminum, and other useful materials. Different materials require different treatment to recycle. As a result, education should be more in-depth on what could be recycled.
- Arouse Intention & Action
Next, what is the method and procedure to recycle? Though consumers may have the intention, action does not always spring from intention. One obvious reason is the accessibility and easiness for general public to participate. The channel of waste collection and segregation must be convenient and easy to reach. Separate recycling bins can facilitate waste segregation, but it seems unpopular to find such bins around major housing estates. While people find it difficult and inconvenient to take action, the result will surely limited.
In remanufacturing office products, convenience is a more determined factor that contributes to successful collection of recyclable materials. The less effort that people have to involve, the more willingness for them to take action.
- Favorable commercial environment
To encourage involvement of private sectors in the plan, the industry commercial opportunity and environment should be favorable. e.g. paper recovery industry is found so unprofitable that Concordia Paper Ltd. would rather shut down recently. With positive business environment, the remanufacturer or recycler can run their business by market force.
As mentioned previously, the "Blue Angel" program proposed by German Government successfully turns the environmental program to a favorable marketing tool that encourages commercial firms to actively involve in the plan. While general public is concerned the quality of remanufactured / recycled products, similar programs stressing on their quality might help remanufacturer to promote their remanufactured products. Resulted in generating a greater move on recycling or remanufacturing.
In conclusion, recycling and remanufacturing industry could benefits our society in the following ways:
- reduce waste and protect the environment
- create job opportunities and promote employment
- provide a cheaper choice for consumer by remanufactured products.
Print-Rite is a leading imaging supplies manufacturer in Asia. At present, the Group employs more than 1500 people in Hong Kong, PRC, UK, USA and Canada.
Its production plants in China are ISO 9001 certified and one of them is fully devoted to the remanufacturing of toner cartridges. Print-Rite has been involving in remanufacturing of laser toner cartridges for six years. It collects used toner cartridges through dealers, retailers and offices, remanufactures them in China and then sells in Hong Kong, PRC and even worldwide. Bibliography
Recharger Magazine, "Go Ahead, Make My Day" by Tricia Stone, Jan 1998, P. 74-75
Recharger Magazine, "Recycling v. Remanufacturing: Environmental Benefits Debated" by Tricia Judge, Sept 1998, P. 68-71
Recharger Magazine (The Book) Vol. IV, "What It Means to be Green: Some of Our Many Contributions", The State of the Union: Where 'Green' is Gold", "Germany: A Shining Star in Environmental" by Tricia Judge, P.469-471, 477-482, 483-485
Recycler, Sept 98, P.48
1997 Mass Flow Verification: No change in consumers' enthusiasm for collection by Petra Rob (http://www.gruener-punkt.de/e/content/daten/pm980705.htm)
Q298 Printer Overview Hong Kong, by IDC Asia/Pacific, 10/98
While every care has been taken in studying all information provided in the attached document, Print-Rite Management Services Co. Ltd. accepts no legal liability for any loss arising directly or indirectly, in connection with reliance on its content.
1.Recharger Magazine (The Book) Vol. IV
2."Q298 Printer Overview Hong Kong", from IDC Asia/Pacific, 10/98
3.Recharger, Jan 1998
4. Recycler, Sept 1998
5.4.Information from Petra Rob, "1997 Mass Flow Verification: No change in consumers' enthusiasm for collection (http:www/gruener-punkt.de/e/content/daten/pm980705.htm)