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Profiting from Recycling

(June 2009) posted on Wed Jun 03, 2009

Going green doesn’t have to be black-and-white.

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By Craig Miller

As a business owner, flipping the green switch can require significant capital investments. It may require changing tried-and-true production methods. It can result in more expensive consumables at a time when customers’ price sensitivity is at an all-time high. “Woe is me,” says the print provider. “I want to be green as I can be, but I can’t make any big financial commitments right now. Our first priority is, after all, staying solvent.” (Pun intended.)

But going green doesn’t have to be black and white. One simple and profitable—yes, you read that right—method for getting greener is recycling.

A new sense of (re)purpose
At the risk of over simplifying, I will separate recycling into two categories: external and internal. External recycling is what we all do at home. Put the stuff out into the recycle bin and some guy comes by with a truck and hauls it away to be made into something else. If we’re good citizens and fill up our bins religiously, we’re doing our part to keep these materials out of the landfill and continue their productive use. My family has been totally committed to this type of recycling not only in our personal life, but also with our company. But other than the feeling of social responsibility, as business people there is no immediate or tangible gratification.

Which is why, years ago, we began a modest effort at internal recycling. We also call this repurposing.

For example, when someone orders a 3 x 6-foot poster printed or mounted on foam board, we have a 56-percent yield from that board. What happens to the 44 percent that is left over? I like to define the off-cut from sheet or roll goods as either waste or scrap. In our shop, if it’s waste, it goes into either the trash bin to go to the landfill or the recycle bin to go to someone who will recycle it. \