The problem

Millions of ink and toner cartridges are imported into Nigeria every year for use in education, healthcare, finance and other sectors. Since no cartridges are manufactured in Nigeria, the quality of those available for purchase is determined by the foreign exchange conditions. The value of naira (NGN) against the US dollar (USD) has fallen fourfold since 2008, pushing the importers to purchase the cheapest options - often these are low quality cartridges from China that contain inks and toners hazardous to human health.

Two options are available on the market - products from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and compatible products. OEM products are of high quality and produce high yields, but they are expensive. Compatible products, usually from China, are more affordable, but their quality is inconsistent, their yields are lower and they sometimes include toxic components. In both cases, once the cartridges are empty, they are disposed of together with the rest of unsorted waste, causing a detrimental impact on the environment. Due to high calorific value of cartridges they are often open burnt (thus substituting expensive kerosene) to make fire for cooking and to encourage burning of other waste, thus contributing to air pollution and exposing humans to inhalation of toxic substances.

Our solution

Our solution is to create a circular economy for ink and toner cartridges in Nigeria. Our key activities are:

  1. Retrieving used cartridges through buy back schemes and other incentives.
  2. Remanufacturing used cartridges using imported machinery and components. Used cartridges are cleaned, refilled with ink/toner, refitted with a new ink/toner sensor, and repackaged to be sold under our brand name.
  3. Selling cartridges through our regional sales managers covering all 36 states in Nigeria. Our products do not add to the waste management burden on our clients, as we offer incentives and buy back schemes to retrieve used cartridges for remanufacturing.

Our unique selling proposition:

  1. Great price as our production costs are low. We use recovered empty cartridges (that would otherwise be landfilled or open burnt), import all components in bulk and outsource packaging production to a local company. Price is often the most important factor driving cartridge purchasing decisions in Nigeria.
  2. Best quality as we use reusable OEM components and imported components from high quality manufacturers. In Nigeria, locally made products are often perceived as inferior to imported products. We will dispel this perception by providing samples. Additionally, the fact that we import our ink from Japan, a country that is believed to produce the best quality raw materials and products, will boost customer confidence. All imports from Japan in Nigeria are of best quality because “back door” imports are not possible - all products imported from Japan go through pre-shipment verification and certification by Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and their partners, such as Cotecna and SGS.
  3. Non-toxic inks and toners, as we chose our suppliers with care. We will import ink from Wako, our partners in Japan, who use soya oil in manufacturing instead of petrochemicals. Their ink samples are analysed in specialised laboratories to test for toxicity; a laboratory-issued certificate verifying the safety of the product is attached to every shipment. We will make copies of these certificates available to our customers, to compete with other compatible products that are usually not tested for toxicity to avoid extra costs.
  4. Zero waste to landfill as we recover our cartridges from our customers to either remanufacture or recycle them with our local partner Wecyclers. According to our partners in Japan, the same cartridge can be remanufactured 5 times before the quality starts to decline. Our packaging will be plastic free. Most importantly, our business will contribute to significantly reducing open burning of cartridges and the associated detrimental effect on human health.

Additionally, we will be making a difference by:

  1. Building an inclusive and diverse team. We will aim to have an equal number of male and female employees, and we will reserve 30% of our vacancies for people with disabilities.
  2. Supporting local charities and educational institutions. Every month we will donate 5% of our profit. We want to support tertiary educational institutions to strengthen their research capacity and fund students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Diabetic Association of Nigeria, as diabetes rates are surging in Nigeria and many cannot afford the treatment they need.

With our work we will be directly contributing to 4 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN:

By forcing cartridges that contain inks and toners hazardous to human health off the market and by preventing open burning of used cartridges, we will improve human health.

By establishing the first cartridge remanufacturing business in West Africa, we will advance industrial capacity of Nigeria and foster the innovation culture.

By retrieving used cartridges through buy back schemes and other incentives we will create a business based on a circular economy, encouraging others to follow us.

By remanufacturing cartridges we will avoid emissions (including GHGs and black carbon) associated both with producing new cartridges and with disposal of used ones.