Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Why not just throw ink cartridges in the trash? That’s the question I sought the answer to as The Ground_Up Project team visited Jean-Francois Rothlisberger, the owner of Ecoink. Set up in Geneva in 2005, Ecoink recycles and reuses ink and toner cartridges. The goal is to give cartridges a second life while offering customers high-quality ink.
Every year, over 375 million empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown away, and most end up in landfills or incinerators. That’s the equivalent of throwing away 11 cartridges per second, though each takes between 450 and 1,000 years to decompose. Ink cartridges not only pollute the environment, but they can also cause great harm to humans. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), carbon black, a material found in toner ink, is directly involved in causing cancer. Interestingly, for every 100,000 used cartridges recycled, we can save 9,599 kilograms of aluminum, 40 tons of plastic, and one million liters of oil. This presents an immense opportunity for sustainable development.
Ecoink’s work can be described in three simple steps. First, they purchases empty cartridges for 50 Swiss francs ($55). Second, they recycle these cartridges. Third, they resell them to customers for half the original price. Jean-Francois explains: “recycled cartridges are just as good as new ones. Customers save money and they lower their carbon footprint. It’s a win-win.” However, he was also quick to point out his view on Swiss consumer behavior: “you see, during the recession, we had more sales, because customers wanted to save money. Now that the situation is better, I find that they are back to their old ways. Swiss salaries are very high so people don’t have the incentive to change their behavior, even though they care about the environment.”
Currently, Ecoink serves private clients, non-profits and small businesses in the Lake Geneva region. In the near future, Jean-Francois hopes to not only serve more customers across the country, but also to recycle and reuse personal computers in addition to cartridges. As The Ground_Up Project team walked away from 14 rue Dancet, I reflected on the scalability of Jean-Francois’ business model. Clearly, this isn’t just about Geneva. Ecoink is inking deals for Swiss sustainability.
Environmental Impact: Reduced landfills & avoided use of fossil fuels, including avoided emission of GHGs and harmful substances
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