Recycling projects that inspire innovation

Nathan Nayagar is the Managing Director for Lexmark – South Africa & English Speaking Africa. He explains how Lexmark has embraced the circular economy approach within its business model.

Responsible business and sustainability are not necessarily terms that inspire excitement – but they should. By thinking outside the box, companies are using increasingly innovative approaches to get involved in recycling and become a part of the circular economy.

The rate of global deforestation is slowing, thanks partly to the increased use of recycled paper. Lexmark has gone one step further and is re-using the paper used to print test pages to help meet a growing demand for product packaging. Over the past decade, the demand for packaging has accelerated, with global packaging sales estimated to reach $975bn by 2018.

Lexmark devised a scheme to turn its used paper into product packaging. Instead of recycling test pages, the company converts them into moulded pulp cushions which are then used to protect its cartridges during shipping. Cost-effective and practical, these cushions can also be recycled as they are made from 100% waste.

The company’s sustainability efforts are, quite literally, laying the groundwork that will help others go the extra mile. In partnership with Close the Loop, Lexmark is recycling used toner to help construct TonerPave, an asphalt additive composed of recycled tyres, toner powder and recycled oil. Although initially designed for maximum environmental benefit, roads asphalted with TonerPave have superior characteristics to comparable roads with virgin raw materials. The addition of toner improves the quality and performance of asphalt, with the environmental benefit of lowering greenhouse gas emissions at no additional cost.

It only takes one idea to start a recycling revolution – but it takes a whole company to pioneer such innovative policies. To become a sustainability leader, companies need to be receptive to new ideas and build an innovative environment where they are given a chance to grow.

Recycling is at the heart of the circular economy and can be a powerful differentiator for brands wishing to put their innovation skills to good use. Supporting the environment and the circular economy shows today’s more environmentally conscious consumer that a company cares for the environment, which encourages brand loyalty. That’s why taking a smarter approach to conserve our finite resources can transform not only a company or an industry, but also positively impact the bottom line.