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Appleton, WI USA
APPLETON While most people believe recycling helps the environment, many Americans dont reuse everything they possibly can.
Although state and local laws require that materials like paper, plastic and aluminum get separated, many reusable products still end up in landfills.
Theres a difference between belief of recycling and practice of it, said Don Burich, president of LaserSave Inc., an Appleton- based remanufacturing firm.
LaserSave takes companies used office printing supplies toner cartridges and inkjets from printers, fax machines and copiers and dissembles and cleans them as well as replacing damaged parts and refilling toner.
Burich and others in the industry prefer the term remanufacturing to recycling, because the latter can refer simply to pouring new toner into the printer cartridge.
Reusing printing consumables a term the computer industry uses for products used by workers started off slowly in the 1990s, Burich said. Before that, computer hardware manufacturers wanting to sell more products ignored the possibilities of remanufacturing.
Last year, 40 million toner cartridges were used some went into landfills, some were returned to original manufacturers and other went to remanufacturers.
Now most major manufacturers offer some type of remanufacturing service. But it often means sending off cartridges for weeks or months at a time.
LaserSave created an exchange program. It was a pioneering program in our industry, Burich said.
Rather than picking up items and returning them when theyve been remanufactured, the delivery driver takes the old ones and immediately provides them with updated merchandise. It wasnt user friendly to have a delay in product, Burich said.
The company got its start in 1986 as part of Debco Enterprises Inc., which primarily supplied business forms like tax and W2 forms. It was a seasonal business with a large customer base, Burich said.
A combination of heading into the computer age and evening out the rest of its year led Debco to introduce remanufactured consumables to its existing clients.
In 1994, the president of Debco hired Burich as a business consultant to help the company define its future goals and growth. The business forms division was sold off and the president saw an opportunity for retirement. He said to me, Why dont you buy the business? Burich said. At the time, it was the furthest thing from my mind. Five months went by and I decided to do it.
Burichs business development company purchased the LaserSave division, and Debco became a financial holding company. At this time, recycling became top-of-mind with businesses, but they were only recycling paper, Burich said. Corporations started hiring environment consultants and recycling specialists.
Those recycling laws, which dont cover printing consumables, have at least created an awareness that many materials and objects can have several lives, Burich said.
These corporations also looked for ways to streamline operations and cut costs, Burich said. While saving $30,000 a year which he says his larger clients have realized might not seem huge, it adds up when combined with savings in other areas of business, he added.
Recycling a toner cartridge instead of buying a new one saves 20 to 50 percent of the cost, Burich reports.
The remanufacturing industry has grown from basement operations to corporations, Burich said. Remanufacturing businesses employ 480,000 people per year, according to The National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery in Rochester, N.Y.
Beyond its Appleton headquarters, LaserSave operates distribution centers in Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and New Jersey.
While the majority of its clients operate out of the Upper Midwest, LaserSave services businesses from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. As Wisconsin companies go through acquisitions and mergers, LaserSave often picks up the business from its new properties.
The remanufacturing corporations client list reads like a whos who of the Fox Cities with major manufacturers like JanSport, Miller Electric and School Specialty working with LaserSave.
Some clients only exchange one cartridge every two years, while others do 100 a month, Burich said.
School Specialty has serviced Greenville-based School Specialty and its locations around the country.
Were in the middle of our crucial season, its necessary for all our equipment to be up and running, said Jane Eastman, administrative assistant for information technology at School Specialty.
Eastman can usually count on same-day service at School Specialtys headquarters, she said.
Burich points to the numerous advertising and graphic arts firms that LaserSave works with as a testament to the corporations products. No one cares more about how printing looks than people in these businesses, he said.
LaserSave also offers a technical support and service division to provide maintenance on office machines. The corporation has become a third-party service provider to national office machine manufacturers around the company.
Even though recycling has been enforced for almost two decades, remanufacturing has just scratched the surface, Burich said. LaserSave now employs 13 people and sales have grown at about 60 percent per year.
But even with all the changes in the industry, LaserSaves message remains the same: We want to help our customers save money, help the environment and not sacrifice the quality of the products.
By Stefanie Scott
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Stefanie Scott can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.