Is it time to review the UK’s cartridge procurement policy?

Cartridge recyclingOn 15 June 2010, the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, announced that the government would undertake a full review of waste policy in England.

The government’s ambition for waste management in England was defined in the Coalition’s Programme for Government and Defra’s Structural Reform Plan as ‘Working towards a zero waste economy’. The purpose of this review is to look at all aspects of waste policy and waste management in England to ensure the country is taking the right steps to delivering this ambition. The government’s commitments include: tackling the fiscal deficit, environmental protection, localism and addressing climate change.

The following response from the UK Cartridge Remanufacturers Association outlines one surprisingly easy way for the public sector to achieve the above objectives.

A simple answer
The association has said that switching to procurement of UK remanufactured cartridges would cut costs, cut waste, reduce CO2 as well as safeguard and create UK jobs and contribute towards a zero waste economy.

To illustrate the logic behind the association’s request for a change in UK public sector policy on cartridge procurement, an example of a local authority (LA) is used. The logic scales across the entire public sector.

The following is a realistic analysis of printer cartridge impacts of a local authority. In a period of one year, one LA purchased 65,716 original manufacturers brand toner cartridges at an average cost of £53.75 per cartridge. In total, this amounts to spend by the LA of £3.53 million on original toner cartridges. From a carbon footprint study of cartridges commissioned by UKCRA, each cartridge has a carbon footprint of approximately 7 kgCO2 and so the carbon footprint incurred by the LA in its purchase of original cartridges is 460 tonnes CO2.

The same carbon footprint study showed that the carbon footprint of the same model of toner cartridge going through just one remanufacturing cycle is 1.6 kgCO2. The cost of the remanufactured cartridge is on average £30.82.

The cost and carbon savings illustrated are not insignificant figures. For example, assuming the average cost of employing an LA employee is about £30k, the cost saving on printer cartridges of £1.5 million equates to about 50 employees.

Procurement measures based on print managed services will have an advantage in comparison to new original cartridges but not in comparing cost per page to a remanufactured cartridge. Such measures do not, however, bring the same level of CO2 reductions and UK jobs safeguarding and UK jobs creation associated with remanufacturing.          

Further benefits

In addition to the savings in costs and carbon, there are also other benefits, such as diverting materials (about 0.7 kg per cartridge totaling 46 tonnes for 65,716 cartridges) away from landfill and incineration, because the cartridges are kept in circulation rather than driven to end-of-life (EOL) after a single use and recycled (crushed).

Cartridges can be remanufactured more than once and examples of individual cartridges being remanufactured 25 or more times without loss of print quality have been demonstrated in the UK. Furthermore, assuming that on average an employee in the remanufacturing industry can remanufacture approximately 7,000 cartridges (an average of four cartridges per hour), the switch by this LA to purchasing remanufactured cartridges would create about nine remanufacturing jobs.

Recognising that jobs created in remanufacturing are jobs created in the UK (the low-carbon activity displaces original products shipped into the UK from abroad, mainly the Far East), the total jobs impact through the switch by the LA to procuring remanufactured cartridges is 50 public sector jobs safeguarded in the LA and nine jobs created for the UK remanufacturing industry.

To summarise, the impact of this LA switching from original to remanufactured cartridges is as follows:
• Cost savings for single LA: £1.5 million
• Carbon savings by the LA: 355 tonnes CO2
• Waste diverted from EOL: 46 tonnes (of high value materials)
• Jobs safeguarded in the LA: 50 employees
• UK remanufacturing jobs created: nine
These cost, carbon and waste savings and jobs safeguarding and jobs creation opportunities can be scaled across the public sector: across local authorities, hospitals, educational establishments, police authorities, defense and other establishments.

The UK Cartridge Remanufacturers Association (UKCRA) is an association of toner and inkjet cartridge re-manufacturers, cartridge collectors and component suppliers to the UK remanufacturing industry.

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