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From cartridge to park bench

PASSIONATE about the triple bottom line, family businesswoman Kathryn Thomas is encouraging businesses throughout WA to take greater responsibility for their own waste.

Mrs Thomas believes she may be heading the only WA business that is already living the WA ALP policy of zero waste by 2020.

WA Toner Supplies, founded by Mrs Thomas and husband Dennis in 1989, recycles fax and printer toner cartridges – up to eight times each.

The company “remanufactures” 1500 cartridges each month, from clients including Rio Tinto, Skilled Engineering, Monadelphous, the University of Western Australia, the Shire of Gingin, the Department of Industry and Resources, and the Waters and Rivers Commission.

Cartridges deemed officially dead are pulled apart and the components are assessed for repair, reuse or waste recycling.

The plastic bits nominated for waste are granulated on site in Osborne Park and then shipped to Melbourne, for melting and metamorphosis into park benches and other outdoor furniture.

Clients are rewarded with the furniture, gained on a points system, and the knowledge that they are helping to reduce landfill.

Paper, cardboard packaging, and toner bottles are also shredded for packaging, or recycled, and excess toner is processed through a water-based system, to form a safe solid suitable for landfill within four weeks.

The toner waste could also be of use to the gold-processing industry, if available in sufficient quantities, and WA Toner Supplies has already held discussions with the minerals industry.

Mrs Thomas has felt compelled to continue the extended storage, reuse or recycle process after reading an article on a Chinese town in Guangdong province, which had become a dumping ground for modern office technology.

Her company has already been recognised for its practices, receiving a 2001 WA Government 3R Award for Excellence in waste reduction, reuse, recycling and cleaner production.

This year WA Toner Supplies became a signatory to the WA Sustainable Industries Group Cleaner Production Statement.

WA Toner Supplies has more than 20 employees in its Osborne Park operation and a corporate office in West Perth, and expansion plans include an initial regional office in Bunbury.

Ten per cent of cartridges are recycled globally, WA Toner Supplies sales executive Malcolm Smith says.

This makes Australia’s 15 per cent look good, except for the fact that the UK, US and Europe are reportedly close to topping 30 per cent.

However, manufacturers are not so happy with the trend, with the larger international ones delivering product guarantee warnings, offering attractive incentives to organisations, and providing their own collection services, to promote bulk purchasing rather than recycling.

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