And the more I read and think about how the environment, the more convinced I become of our vertical’s need to become involved in creating a more environmentally-friendly business environment and supply chain, writes Anton Herbst, M D of A.C.T.
A.C.T. estimates that every month somewhere in the region of 70 40-foot containers of toner and 35 40-foot containers of ink are imported into South Africa.
While that speaks volumes about the viability of our industry and the strong demand that exists for printing in South Africa, the sad part is that only 5% to 8% of the packaging that remains after the ink and toner has been used gets recycled or split into its components for re-use in another product.
So that means between 92% and 95% of the empty printer consumables created in South Africa each month go into local landfills – it’s an astounding volume of trash to consider.
Compounding issues even further, the 5% to 8% of cartridges that are disposed of correctly are processed in Europe – the fact that they are transported back to Europe before being dealt with means their carbon footprint is double what it would be if the recycling or disposal took place in South Africa.
If we as an industry gave this topic some focus locally and committed to solving it, the scenario could be vastly different.
So what can we do?
For starters, we as an industry need to encourage the recycling or breaking down and repurposing of those raw materials into other products for future use.
That means we need to encourage local recycling initiatives to get on board with the consumables industry and partner with them on the collection, recycling or safe disposal of the empties and accompanying waste materials – making the planet pay double the penalty it should, makes no sense.
Here we come up against two massive stumbling blocks however – these, as you’ve probably guessed are cost and economic viability.
Because there’s no money in the recycling of empty toner and ink cartridges, entrepreneurs aren’t exactly lining up to start businesses in this space.
If we as an industry stepped up to the plate and realised that we need to make it worth their while however, by accepting some economic responsibility for the products that make us our bread and butter, we could have a flourishing toner and ink cartridge recycling operation in no time. And the best part is that we can share the cost out across all players in the ecosystem.
And here’s the clincher – we’re going to have to do this sooner or later.
Our consumers are going to begin demanding it, just as soon as they cotton on to the concept of the carbon footprint and environmental impact being something they need to take responsibility for themselves.
We’re quite a way away from having a workable solution to these issues – but there are things we can do to pave the way and make this easier to do.
A good place to begin is by talking to our customers and convincing them that an industry that behaves more responsibly about its impact on the environment is something we all need.
At the same time, we should ask each other what facilities already exist – and as flawed as they are, begin using them.
And lastly, let’s discuss your ideas and proposed solutions to the problem – this will take the whole industry’s participation.