Green ABLE

Extracting value from waste printer cartridges

greenABLE supports disabled women in the collection and disassembly of end-of-life printer cartridges to preserve their valuable components, thereby diverting empty printer cartridges from landfill. greenABLE’s specialists dismantle the cartridges and separate their components to extract plastic and metals such as mild steel and aluminium. The plastics are granulated, extruded and pelletised and, along with the other materials, sold to manufacturers for recycling. Each year, greenABLE processes about 306,000 printer cartridges, which equates to approximately 220 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfill.

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Green ABLE

Circular Strategy

Use waste as resource, Incorporate digital technology, Rethink the business model

Sustainable Development Goals

10Reduce inequality within and among countries

11Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

"We have taken the initiative to be responsible for our industry’s waste, whilst adding value to the lives of persons living with disabilities.”-Mark Valentine

The Opportunity

Unemployment amongst people with disabilities stands at well over 70% in South Africa. Disabled women are particularly marginalised. Providing them with meaningful employment and empowerment is a challenge.

Meanwhile, there is an opportunity to create jobs from the recycling of empty printer cartridges. Less than 10% of the 12 million printer cartridges that enter the South African market each year are recycled after use; the rest simply end up in landfill sites.

The Story

greenABLE started life as a solution to a problem identified by its parent company, Green Office, a business that provides managed printing services and aims to make businesses more efficient and sustainable. In 2010 Green Office made the decision to create a non-profit company that could divert printer cartridge waste from landfill. Instead of sending the used cartridges to landfill, they asked themselves: what could we do with this?

The Solution

greenABLE diverts empty printer cartridges from landfill by extracting their valuable material. In the process, they create jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities. greenABLE’s specialists dismantle cartridges and separate their components to extract plastic, metals such as mild steel and aluminium. The plastics are granulated, extruded, and pelletised, and, along with the other materials, are sold to manufacturers for recycling. Each year greenABLE processes about 306,000 printer cartridges, which equates to approximately 220 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfills. Some of the recycled plastics are used by another company to produce portable laptop stands with the brand name eezigo. In the past, greenABLE has provided recycled plastics to the South African government’s low-cost housing initiative. greenABLE works with disabled people who have had limited access to high quality education. Its employees are upskilled whilst working at greenABLE, spending 75% of their time working on cartridge recovery, and 25% receiving vocational training to further their education and increase their chances at better job positions. greenABLE’s people are also encouraged to act as agents to start cartridge collection businesses from their neighbourhoods. greenABLE’s employees are sponsored by companies, and the organisation also benefits from this in terms of South Africa’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment programme.

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