Founder and President Kedar Morarka is greening the planet, one toner cartridge at a time.
The company remanufactures cartridges that otherwise would find their way into landfills. IPW reuses the salvageable parts in the cartridges it receives, combining them with new parts, to make a product costs up to 40 percent less than a brand-new cartridge. It recycles the pieces that can't be reused.
"By throwing away a cartridge, you're throwing away a lot of components that would stay in the landfill forever," says Morarka. "They don't degrade."
A full 97 percent of the components in the roughly 300 million toner cartridges that end up in landfills annually can be reused or recycled. It collects used cartridges from business like Office Depot.
But it's not just keeping non-degradable pieces out of landfills. Remanufacturing also reduces oil consumption -- it takes three quarts of oil to make just one new cartridge. Because IPW remanufactures all of its cartridges in the United States, its carbon footprint is less than its competitors, whose fuel consumption is much greater because of shipping parts overseas to be assembled and shipped back for distribution. "We have the most environmentally friendly product, and we'll save you 25 to 40 percent," Morarka says. "We recycle everything here -- plastics, metal, all the paper, all the cardboard."
And employees are on board with the recycling program. Many of the recyclables are sold, with the proceeds footing the bill for company lunches and events. "They are all conscious of that and don't throw things in the garbage," Morarka says.
IPW remanufactures more than 400 different types of cartridges, so there is very little automation at the company's 90,000-square-foot plant. Employees clean each usable component thoroughly, and the company recycles what's left. The cleaned parts are reassembled with new parts. "With every laser printer, every thing that makes the image is in the cartridge," Morarka says. "It's a whole machine. The bars move."
IPW's customers include Southwest Airlines, General Motors, and a number of major financial institutions.
Challenges: Over the years, as email and Internet use became part of daily life, the market for IPW's products has been shrinking. Competition from other manufacturers who are outsourcing the work to Vietnam and Mexico, where wages are $4 a day, compared with IPW where workers are paid $15 an hour or more. "We are the largest still manufacturing in the U.S. You can call it idealism or stupidity, but we live here so we want to stay here," Morarka says. "We're still doing well, but because of competition, things have settled down. The market is shrinking. Manufacturers who sell you printers at a low cost charge a lot for toner cartridges. They try to come up with ways to stop companies like us from doing the recycling part."
At one point, IPW did business with a number of printer manufacturers, and Morarka estimates the company provided them with more than a million cartridges.
Opportunities: Morarka says IPW is well-positioned to benefit from the trend of businesses placing an emphasis on sustainability.
He says the company's focus on color cartridges, which accounts for 35 percent to 40 percent of its business, sets it apart from its competition. "The Chinese are not very good at making those products," he says. "We do color products extremely well."
Needs: "More sales," says Morarka, who recently spent time spent time with customers in Boston convincing them to take a fresh look at IPW's products. "The cost in China is going up somewhat, too, because of the cost of bringing it all the way here. Some people are beginning to listen now."