This cartridge remanufacturing initiative supports socio-professional integration and the social economy through environmentally friendly activities.
Les Ateliers du Bocage (AdB), a member of Emmaüs France, collaborate with Brother and Lexmark to develop a project promoting positive environmental and social impacts. AdB collects ink and toner cartridges throughout France via the Emmaüs communities. Once the cartridges are collected/received, they are sorted, identified and weighed by brand, type and reference. The employees at AdB are given repair and re-use information, allowing them to separate the reusable cartridges from the recyclable ones. After being sorted, cartridges reintegrate the industrial process: they are refilled, repaired, taken apart to be re-used with functioning spare parts or recycled in the most efficient way.
Cartridges and toners represent highly polluting waste. The main users are individuals and enterprises often unaware of how to dispose of them. AdB treat and sort about 120 000 cartridges on a monthly basis and approximately 500 different types of cartridges are identified. With over 1 375 417 cartridges “saved” in 2019, the environmental impact was huge with less waste produced, more energy saved and less resources extracted. In addition, potentially hazardous substances are being collected and re-used instead of being disposed irresponsibly, which prevents harming the environment.
The contracts between Brother/Lexmark and AdB allows for the creation of green jobs for people in precarious situations struggling to enter the labour market and seeking to preserve the environment.
For their environmental branch alone, AdB has an overall turnover of 3.799.897 EUR and employs 63 people, 10 of which followed a training programme for the re-use of ink cartridges. AdB has reached partnerships with different organisations to provide this service, including 100 schools committed to
Evidence of success
AdB employs about 63 people in their environmental branch alone, 14 of which followed a reinsertion/training programme.
On a yearly basis, about 1,5 million cartridges are re-used, remanufactured or properly recycled, saving vast amounts of natural resources, energy and reducing CO2 emissions.
The annual turnover in 2019 amounted to €3 799 897 for the environmental programme alone.
Producers are often unwilling to manufacture products that are easily repairable or dismantled in order to reuse the functioning spare parts. Thus, refurbishing some products can be complicated, costly or even impossible. Moreover, some products may need to be tested, which can be expensive.
Potential for learning or transfer
The majority of actors focusing on remanufacturing ink cartrdiges are private, creating enormous issues within waste management. This initiative shows that social and solidarity actors can also deal with such processes, allowing for a high degree of replicability in other contexts, both at national and EU level.
Similar partnerships in various EU countries would enable the reduction of waste and create green employment for individuals. Such business models based on remanufacturing can enable employees to gain technical skills. In addition, entities involved might only focus on collection of the products, not the actual remanufacturing process, which means that people without any technical skills can also be eligible for green jobs.
It would also accelerate the change in production and consumption habits, allowing citizens and professionals to use environmentally friendly products while raising awareness on how to return products that can be reused rather than thrown away.