Moock Environmental Solutions Ltd won the Social and Environmental Impact award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards in 2018. We caught up with them just before the 2019 winners are revealed, on 21 February.
What is the inspiration behind Moock Environmental Solutions Ltd?
Our core business for the last 20 years has been the recycling of used printer consumables such as toner cartridges which our clients required to be recycled to maintain the high quality of their products. A toner cartridge consists of various materials such as metals, toner powder and a complex plastic mix which consists of up to 10 different polymers of plastic. We knew that we could remove the metals to be resold back into the marketplace and we extract the toner powder - there is up to 40% toner powder remaining in a cartridge. This is a high quality material which was destined for landfill which we always thought was a waste. Working with the University of Dundee to overcome the problem of mixing toner powder with water (they don’t mix, a lot like oil and water) however, developing a patented admix which made the toner powder soluble in various liquid based mediums. We thought the artists market would be best for this product which we named Premium Pigments.
Where and who are your customers?
At the beginning one of our customers was the University of Edinburgh art school who used Premium Pigments to teach their students about mixing their own custom paints, using our product as a base to their art work. We then further expanded on this principle building our own website which sells the product direct to consumers along with advertising on our Facebook page. This has developed the product to be used for colouring concrete and artists who are using resin. We find our customers are very happy with Premium Pigments and love the fact that we are able to reuse this high quality material.
What was the issue you wanted to overcome by working with academics?
The main issue we had was solving the solubility of toner powder, as explained above, toner powder which has been activated in the cartridge is not soluble in water therefore would rest on the top of the liquid. In order for us to be able to sell this product back into the market place, this had to be overcome. Working with the University of Dundee they helped us come up with a patented admix which turns this waste material into pigment for artists and industrial applications. Having access to the academic environment including their technical equipment and expertise meant we could overcome this issue.
What benefits did the collaboration bring to your business?
The benefits of collaborating with the university was great for us. They have a great knowledge of what they are doing and were always on hand to help when we had questions. They also took the time to really understand where we were at that point and shared a common environmental outlook with us. We also gained a patented product and were able to put this previously unusable product back into the marketplace.
What impact has the collaboration had in terms of growth/jobs/new products/financial savings?
In terms of growth for Moock Environmental Solutions Ltd we have noticed a steady increase in business as well as gaining more recognition in our field especially when we won the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Award in 2018 for Premium Pigments. We are proud to say that we extract all the toner powder from our cartridge recycling and this is used in Premium Pigments. We are in the process of exploring further markets where our product could be used as a replacement to current colourings.
What would you say to other businesses thinking of partnering with academics?
If there are other businesses looking to collaborate with academics on any projects then our advice would be: GO FOR IT and find the right academics which suit your project. We are happy with our collaboration with Dundee and not only have we gone on to do further projects with them such as the upcoming Construction Scotland Innovation Centre collaboration to test the waterproofing qualities that toner powder has on cement.
If you are interested in accessing academic support please contact us. Interface can help match business to academic expertise across Scotland.