Becky Baines heads The Ink Bin ink cartridge recycling business
Sir Bob Russell speaks to an entrepreneurial, environmentally conscious young mother who benefits from the government’s Kickstart program
A few weeks ago, I introduced a young company, started by an enterprising young mom, that deals with the collection and recycling of ink cartridges used in home printers.
Around a million are bought every week in the UK, an estimated 80 percent of which are thrown into the waste system and dumped in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to decompose.
What began as part-time employment two years ago had grown rapidly until she was faced with the dilemma of giving up her job as a special education teacher and concentrating full-time on the further development of her company.
It was a chicken and egg situation, but did she dare to take the risk?
Thanks to a government initiative – sponsored as a “Kickstart” by the Office for Employment and Pensions – she has now hired three young people full-time with financial support for six months in the hope of leading her business into the future as a successful company .
The enterprising mother of two elementary school sons from North Essex is Becky Baines, whose ink cartridge recycling business is called The Ink Bin.
It is now set for growth as it seeks to encourage more people to dispose of their used ink cartridges in an increasing number of “ink tanks” that they are negotiating in a growing number of supermarkets and other outlets and in more than 200 schools around the world Great Britain, including a dozen in the Colchester area who will benefit financially with a percentage of the proceeds.
Also on site, the East of England Co-operative Society has agreed to place a dozen of their brightly colored cardboard boxes in their larger stores, in addition to those already in Co-op branches in West Mersea, Wivenhoe and Earls Colne.
Proceeds from these three containers will go to the West Mersea Lions Club, Tendring Primary School, and the Earls Colne Scouts.
There is also a trash can at Sainsbury’s, Stanway, and the Emmaus Charity Store on Colchester High Street.
Last month, the Waitrose supermarket group piloted The Ink Bin at their Farnham, Hampshire store, which, if successful, could see collection boxes set up in Waitrose supermarkets across the country.
Becky, who lives in Chappel, has now made the big leap forward thanks to the Kickstart program by getting three young people into her business (which is based on former farm buildings in Mount Bures).
This is a government put in place to help both employers and young people develop the skills they need, with additional focus as the country emerges from Covid-19 pandemic regulations.
Kickstart enables employers to hire people aged 16 to 24 who apply for a universal loan and are at risk of long-term unemployment.
This financial support is valid for six months, during which the young worker is fully funded by the government for 25 hours per week, with a minimum of the national minimum wage.
Two of the three young people who started at The Ink Bin are Justin Simpson, 22, from Sudbury, who most recently worked as a construction worker, and Kynan Hammond, 20, from Glemsford, who previously worked for a delivery company but was cut because of Covid -19 restrictions dismissed.
The third teenager is supposed to start next week.
Becky is full of praise for the Colchester and Sudbury Job Centers, who have worked together to secure jobs at The Ink Bin and overcome the teething problems with their headquarters in Essex, but all three young employees in Suffolk.
She is also grateful to the Harwich and North Essex MP, Sir Bernard Jenkin, for his assistance.
She added, “DWP officers Kate Bloom and Adam Rainey made the difference by helping me navigate red tape.
“It is now up to me to make The Ink Bin the commercial and environmental success that I believe is possible, because if it works it will not only be a dream come true for me to run my own environmental company, it will be there are also jobs for these three fantastic young people and I am convinced that there will be more jobs for others in the future.
“Of course, fewer ink cartridges are disposed of as a result.”
The ink tank has already recycled tens of thousands of empty cartridges.
Most can be refilled by a specialist Becky sends them to and they are then sold as remanufactured ink cartridges.
She explained, “I was aware of the big problem that ink cartridges get thrown away when they are empty, so I started The Ink Bin in my spare time in 2019 when I was a special education teacher.
“I contacted schools and supermarkets and invited them to provide one of my cartridge collection boxes for students and customers to dispose of their cartridges – not only for environmental reasons, which was and is my original intention, but also because it’s a fundraiser for a local school or charity. ”
The ink tank does not collect the larger cartridges that are used in stores. This is another market for which the user should return cartridges to the manufacturer.
The ink tank only deals with ink cartridges that are used in home printers.
Not all cartridges can be recycled. The unsuitable ones are sorted for possible shredding into pellets and sold to companies that reuse plastics.
Becky added, “I feel that there is insufficient public awareness that ink cartridges can be recycled.”
Sorting out all the different types of home ink cartridges and sending them to a specialist company for refilling is a labor-intensive activity.
They are then sold to stores.
Also on The Ink Bin team is Fran Larkin from Pebmarsh, who has just left Colchester Sixth Form College.
She plans to go to university to study Classical Civilization and Art History, with Becky graduating from Essex University in the latter.
The Ink Bin not only started as an eco-fundraising company for schools and charities, but also runs “Eco-Kids” – a forum for busy school teachers who want to set up eco-clubs within the school.
Fran Larkin produces weekly newsletters that are sent to schools by e-mail, but are also freely accessible online for everyone. It will continue to do so.
For more information on The Ink Bin, please contact theinkbin.co.uk – email [email protected]