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Third-Party Supplies Vendors Head to Brussels for The Recycler Live 2024 Event

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Last month, The Recycler Live 2024 Conference was hosted at the Martins Hotel EU in Brussels, Belgium. The show, which is held annually, was co-hosted by The Recycler, a trade publication for Europe’s third-party supplies vendors, and the European Toner and Inkjet Remanufacturers Association (ETIRA), a non-profit organization that represents the interests of cartridge remanufacturers and new-build compatibles makers along with their channel partners and other stakeholders that support the imaging consumables industry.

Stefanie Unland, publisher and editor of The Recycler, told us that her organization has been hosting events like The Recycler Live for over 35 years. “The Live concept is an evolution of the IF Conferences that we have been running since 1997,” she explained. Over the years, Ms. Unland detailed that The Recycler has hosted conferences in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. “But in recent years,” she said, “We have partnered with ETIRA, and the focus has been on Europe, where legislation is evolving that will affect the whole industry.”

According to Ms. Unland, The Recycler Live Conference 2024 in Brussels, which was held on May 15–16, attracted 95 delegates and had nine sponsors. The event featured a range of speakers, including Charles Brewer, the president of Actionable Intelligence, Inc. Ms. Unland said the speakers represented “a diverse cross section of information and opinions.” Of the 16 sessions, which she described as “essential,” Ms. Unland mentioned two as being particularly impactful. After HP, Inc.’s launch of its SecuReuse program (see, “HP Develops SecuReuse to Provide Cartridge Remanufacturers with Reusable HP Chips”), she said the talk by the OEM’s representatives “caused a buzz.” In addition, Ms. Unland opined that ETIRA President Javier Martinez’s presentation “was an eye opener.”

The Seminars: Day One

Elena Sergienko, the head of the Export Department at the Ukrainian remanufacturer VM Group, kicked off the conference seminars. Addressing a riveted audience, she told how Ukrainian businesses reacted swiftly to “the shock of the Russian invasion” and “began to adopt to the new economic situation.” Ms. Sergienko chronicled how in the first weeks of the war, her company reopened and served as a shelter for its employees’ families as the firm got back to work despite missile attacks and arial bombardment. Throughout it all, the company continued to support channel partners in eastern parts of the country, which was experiencing the worst of Russia’s aggression. Despite all of the war’s challenges, Ms. Sergienko said that her firm has managed to improve its production capacity. She concluded her talk by predicting Ukraine will become a center for document digitalization as it rebuilds after the war.

Speakers from other companies in the European consumables industry followed Ms. Sergienko. José Ángel Muñoz, Chief Operations Officer for GM Technologies, a hardware refurbisher based in Seville, Spain, discussed some market disruptions during and after COVID. He indicated that the market has stabilized this year and demand is up for refurbished machines and reman toner cartridges. Next, COO Karolina Wrzesniak-Cwyl from Biuromax Sp. o.o., a cartridge and component distributor based in Baniocha, Poland, discussed the environmental issues associated with imaging supplies and how these issues can be mitigated.

With its potential to redefine the relationship between the OEM and the remanufacturing industry, HP sent speakers to Brussels to discuss its SecuReuse program, which was announced the morning The Recycler Live opened. Steve Castle, a distinguished technologist and strategist at HP, along with sustainability and compliance counsel Daniel Chappell provided an overview of the new technology. The audience, which included some remanufacturers and stakeholders in the reman industry, seemed cautiously optimistic about the program as they peppered the two HP representatives with questions after their joint presentation.

The second half of the first day included detailed presentations regarding regulatory news from the European Union. ETIRA Secretary General Vincent van Dijk reviewed the goals his organization is aiming for, and he noted some of the organization’s lobbying efforts promoting remanufactured cartridges. He also talked about recent proposed regulations in the EU that should make it easier to produce and market remanufactured cartridges. Mr. van Dijk was followed by Volker Kappius, CEO of Delacamp AG, a distributor of toners, drums, and other components for remanufacturing cartridges. Mr. Kappius discussed specific regulatory shifts that have the potential to change the chip technologies being deployed by OEMs on their cartridges. He also talked about potential problems arising from OEM-led core collection programs, which often deny empty cartridges to remanufacturers, and discussed the disadvantages that remans face when competitors ignore European regulations like RoHS and REACH.

ETIRA President Javier Martinez examined results from recent European Commission research into printing waste. He indicated that 1 out of 3 cartridges currently sold in Europe are “illegal and of Chinese origin.” These illegal cartridges, says Mr. Martinez, lack product component and manufacturer information and generate between 140,000 and 170,000 tons of e-waste in Europe annually. In addition to Chinese manufacturers, he says Europeans play a big role in generating this e-waste because they are importing the illegal cartridges. He went on to explain the steps that importers must take to stay on the right side of EU regulations and reduce e-waste. Mr. Martinez was followed by Mathieu Rama of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), who shared his group’s perspective on EU regs on printers and consumables.

The Seminars: Day Two

The second day of the conference was devoted to taking a closer look at specific topics. Jason Doran, the head of the Chinese chipmaker Guangzhou Zhono Microelectronics’ business in Europe, talked about global market shifts he’s tracking this year and evolving customer demands in Europe. Mr. Doran was followed by two Keypoint Intelligence market analysts, Deborah Hawkins and Peter Mayhew, who presented their firm’s primary research into the ”future of work” in today’s post-pandemic world.

Mr. Brewer from Actionable Intelligence was among the speakers on the second day. He offered a deep dive into efforts taken by various hardware manufacturers to remanufacture cartridges for the European market. The research that he shared indicates that several OEMs, including Brother, Canon, Ricoh, and HP, are currently remanufacturing in plants across Europe. While these operations could one day be scaled up, to date the OEMs’ foray into remanufacturing has been limited (click here to download the presentation).

Long-time third-party supplies industry advocate and the past publisher and editor of The Recycler, David Connett, presented the last seminar of the day offering his take on the current market for new-build compatibles in Europe. Now a partner in the consultancy Connett & Unland GbR, Mr. Connett predicted that the prices of new-builds are destined to rise as more environmental regulations are enacted and enforced in the EU. He suggested that these regs should be good for the bloc’s remanufacturers, which he reckons now number in the low thousands.

The Host’s Thoughts

Ms. Unland was upbeat in her assessment of The Recycler Live event. When asked to name some of its highlights, she quipped, “All of it!” Stressing the need for industry gatherings, Ms. Unland said that “It’s refreshing to see that face-to-face engagements continue to be important.”

The Recycler has a full slate of future conferences that it’s planning. “We are undertaking a research project to determine the scale of the industry,” Ms. Unland said. “Once that is done, we will look to increase our conference activity.”  The organization is looking into hosting as many as four one-day events in the next year focusing on sustainability and how remanufacturers and resellers can grow revenue and improve cash flow. “More details to follow once the program is fixed and the venues are booked,” she said.

In addition to the new one-day events, Ms. Unland confirmed that The Recycler will host its Remanexpo in 2025 as part of Ambiente in Frankfurt, Germany. It will run from February 7 to 11. While the event has undergone some changes over the years, The Recycler has been working with Messe Frankfurt to offer a trade show focused on third-party consumables and supplies for remanufacturers since 2011 (see Remax@Paperworld Draws Thousands to Messe Frankfurt). Ms. Unland indicated that The Recycler will begin promoting next year’s Remanexpo this month.

The Recycler Live conference in Brussels ended with some discussion of next year’s gathering. Several audience members at the event-just-ended advocated for various locations in Southern Europe, including Italy, Portugal, and Spain. When asked, Ms. Unland remained close-lipped about The Recycler Live 2025 conference indicating only that the team has some work to do before any announcements can be made. She explained, “[We need to] find a destination, build the agenda, organize the marketing, and away we go!”

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