IF the toner cartridge on your printer or copier needs refilling or repairing, there is a chance the work will be done in Stalybridge.
Green Cat Co Ltd., based in Cheethams Mill, was established in 1991 as a specialist remanufacturer of laser and photocopier toner cartridges, later adding inkjet cartridges to its product range.
And despite seeing its business massively hit by Chinese imports in recent times, a scaled-down company has survived the downturn in trade.
Owner Gerard Barnes, who oversees a two-man operation, explained: “The influx of copied, cloned and new-build cartridges from China has reduced the industry in this country.
“Companies can buy a cartridge from China for the same price as I pay for components to repair them. There is also internet selling that is another problem.
“Once there were about 70 remanufacturers like ourselves in this country, today there are only a handful.”
Whereas once the company employed seven staff, it is now Gerard and employee Simon Wardhaugh that run an operation that annually turns over about £150,000.
That equates to about 100 large cartridge and 150 small ones on a good week.
Gerard, 75, has no intention of retiring even though trading conditions remain challenging.
“I have no hobbies, don’t play golf, so why not continue?”, he declared.
Gerard is saddened by the decline in remanufacturing and, as a former treasurer and secretary of the UK Cartridge Remanufacturing Association, has witnessed the “heartbreak” it has caused.
In the past Gerard’s company has had contracts for work from France, Holland, Denmark and Germany. Today it is exclusively in the UK.
The work entails testing the cartridges, stripping them down, removing faulty parts and adding new drums and toner before they are sent out again.
An added obstacle is the drive for the country to become even greener with cartridges not permitted to go to landfill sites.
“Every one that we put out has to come back by law, and most do,” he continued.
Gerald also works closely with other remanufacturers as he says it would be impossible for his company to produce cartridges for every printer.
And whereas he once had contracts with NHS Trusts and universities, today he mainly deals with a couple of printer maintenance companies that cover the UK.
He continued: “I am in the early stage of negotiations over a contract that, if it comes off, would see a good percentage of the work go abroad.
“I am also fighting to get back into the NHS through local doctors’ surgeries.”
Gerald, who lives in Glossop, began his working life in the textile trade back in the 1960s.
He continued: “The two mills where I worked both closed and I did all kinds of jobs including being a postman.
“I then became a salesman with Post Office Telephone that became BT where I became a group manager of a lot of their salesmen.”
It was back in 1991 that Gerard answered a job advert when Swiss businessman Milan Lusser began the business in Longsight. Gerard managed the company as well as taking a small stake in the company that later moved to Denton.
And about 10 years ago, Gerard bought out the company and relocated to larger premises at Cheethams Mill.