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Recycling taking off slowly in India

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DQW Bureau
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Recycled products have gained a lot of general acceptance in a number of industries all across the globe. Generally though, the com-puter industry has been slow to promote take-back pro-grams or recycling efforts for the millions of dollars of waste it generates annually.

“With the rapid turnover of computers, there is a much shorter useful life cycle of the product. This industry is mak-ing garbage faster than they know what to do with and prin-ter cartridges is one such example,” pointed out Manjit Singh, MD, Hi-Tech Services.

According to one estimate, the 315 million old PCs ready to be junked worldwide by 2004, if piled together, would create a mile-high mountain of high-tech waste with the girth of a football field. What’s more, that mountain would also contain a lot of accessories like printer cartridges worth mil-lions of dollars.

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“We think that computer companies need to hear from consumers about the desire and need for cleaner product design and take-back programs for recycling. After all this is in customer’s favor and he will not have to shell out huge amounts for a simple thing such as refill-ing. So we decided to come into this field of recycled refilling of cartridges,” he added.

Delhi based Hi-Tech Services is a company which is involved in recycling the printer cartrid-ges and it has refilling unit which is capable of refilling car-tridges for any brand. “Recycl-ing of cartridges is a big busi-ness in countries like US and Canada.

There the government itself has made it mandatory for vendors to have recycling units. But here the situation is diffe-rent and not many companies have shown interest towards recycling. We are capable of recycling all models of cartri-dges, including Epson, HP, Lexmark, Xerox, Samsung and Canon printers, plus toners for both laser printers and fax Machines,” explained Singh.

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However, only a few such companies exist in a vast country like India. As for Hi-Tech, the company is using a German technology in refilling the cartridges. The technology uses vacuum and air pressure to clean the cartridge and after that the cartridge is filled with refilling ink.

Viz-a-viz original factory filled cartridge, a recycled one is almost at par with original one, except for the price, which is 1/3rd of the original cartri-dge. This is bound to attract customers. “Yes we are quite busy and cater to more than 700 clients in the Delhi region. 50 percent of them belong to the SOHO segment and the rest are all corporate clients. The price for refilling varies bet-ween Rs 350 to Rs 650 depend-ing on different brands and quality,” he revealed.

Added Singh, “There are only three such companies who can do complete recycling of printer cartridges and we are one of them. We are special in a way that our customers can sell their used cartridges again to us for hard cash, we are will-ing to buy all the once used or empty cartridges that they may have.”

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As far as the ink is concer-ned, it is primarily being imported from countries like Singapore and even Malaysia. “This is a vicious cycle as this ink is eventually being provided to Singapore-based factories by big US-based companies like HP and this is what is fueling this industry,” added anther source involved in this trade.

One big reason the recycling of PCs and its accessories has not happened to date is that computers contain so many different materials–multiple plastics, lead, arsenic, mercury and others–and recycling them isn’t easy.

“For many years major printer vendors have operated a model program for recycling of their computer printer ink cartridges.

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For instance, in US, new replacement cartridges for all branded printers, of which there are millions in use, come in a box with a fresh label, so the purchaser can ship the empty cartridge back to the vendor’s facility for recycling at no cost. Each used cartridge is dismantled into its various components, including plastic, ink and foam. All are recycled,” pointed out another Delhi-based recycler of cartridges.

“If we look on global terms, there are laws in countries like US and Canada that ask vendors to implement recycle friendly policies and vendors encourage customers to go for recycled products. But here in a country like India it is almost the opposite,” rued Singh.

Unfortunately, such ‘cradle-to-cradle’ programs, where manufacturers take total responsibility for the old product’s return and recycling, are about as common as any other endangered species. The fact is that many companies continue to operate with little or no attempt to apply recy-cling principles to ensure that their products can be reused or safely disposed after they are used up.

Zia Askari

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