B & B Ink and Toner co-owner Becky Bartlett hung out her tile on Greencastle's town square, Jan. 9, and says that any small town could benefit from the service her business provides -- recycling ink and toner cartages.
Three hundred and fifty million used ink cartages tumble into North American landfills every year, according to Environmental Office Solutions, which helps facilitate recycling for large corporations.
In the U.S., those cartridges generate 1.9 billion pounds of solid waste, or roughly the equivalent of 40,000 elephants. That weight is only compounded by the fact that it can take as long as 450 years for one cartage to decompose. Recycling and refilling those cartridges could cut those figures dramatically, and save those with the refill option, significant amounts of cash.
Though large corporations and universities often have the assistance of operations like Environmental Office Solutions to streamline waste and save cash, individuals in rural areas often find themselves without a moneysaving option to recycle. Locally, that condition just changed.
Today, when print happy Putnam County residents see that dreaded flashing light on their printers, or with squinted eyes, strain to read the faint gray text produced by an ink cartridge on its deathbed, they have an alternative to dolling out $35 or more for a new brand name cartridge.
"I hope to save people up to 50 percent on their cartridges," said Bartlett, who says that new ink and toner can get expensive for individuals and businesses.
Providing a conservative estimate of $35 per cartridge at retail stores, Bartlett says that she can refill most cartages for a maximum charge of $15. Some of the most widely sold high capacity cartridges, such as the HP 56 model, can be refilled at B & B for only $9.99.
According to Bartlett, printer cartridges can be refilled as many as 15 times before they need to be replaced. With a conservative estimate of $35 for a new cartridge, that would cost the average customer $525, instead of the B & B rate of $262 or less.
When the refill option has been exhausted, or if a computer chip dies, Bartlett can send the cartridge off to other vendors who dispose of the hazardous materials safely.
Though some skeptics express concerns about the quality of refilled cartridges, Bartlett says that the ink she uses is almost an exact match to the factory ink, and only the most well trained eye would be able to detect the slight difference in hue.
Bartlett also says that when cartridges are refilled, customers often find that they get more ink than they do from factory sold cartridges.
Bartlett warns that not all cartridges are safe to refill, citing Cannon, Epson and Brother as examples. The ink containers are known to leak after refills causing damage to printers. However, she does sell remanufactured cartridges for these brands that are still at deeply discounted rates over new cartridges.
"It's 100 percent guaranteed if there's a problem," Bartlett said.
Bartlett has taken her "green" efforts one step further by helping Putnam County recycle other items such as discarded eyeglasses and cell phones, putting them into the hands of people who need them.
Though she did not name specific vendors, Bartlett said that the eyeglasses are donated to people and organizations that need them, while old cell phones, through the help of a nonprofit agency, are given to victims of domestic violence who can use the phones to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
Convenience has become the final tenant of B & B's green operation. Cartridges can be refilled while you wait, typically taking only 10 minutes. Customers can also drop cartridges off, or even mail them in and have them shipped back free of charge. For best refill results, Bartlett recommends that people place empty cartridges in a zip lock bag for storage to prevent drying.
B & B Ink and Toner is located at 23 W. Franklin St., Greencastle.