Page 10 - April 2016
P. 10

| On our road to Success |                    | |Arsi Saukkola (10738)

We were two brave¬hearted                     of course, we had to buy a van, a truck,
           young men in Finland, trying       all the waste collection tanks and pumps.
           to earn our living all through     But first of all, we had to source a good
the 1980s in our company named                number of customers where we could
Metallikumppanit (Metal Partners). The        get the silver waste material.
company was founded while we were
still at senior school.                         The customers knew that they were
                                              sitting on a valuable silver treasure. There
  We concentrated on a very special           was practically a queue of silver-waste
business sector: silver recovery. The         buyers outside their doors. Amongst the
printing houses in our country had all        buyers there was one large company,
gone over to offset, and the publishing       a few small ones, and then there were
and advertising market was growing            travelling men with just a van and
strong. While making the printing plates,     nothing else. Strangely enough, the
the printing houses all used vast amounts     legislation was such that those travelling
of reprographic film and phototypesetting      entrepreneurs, who had no fixed
paper. In our capital city Helsinki           warehouse or workshop, did not have to
alone there were hundreds of printing         pay VAT.
workshops, reprographic companies,
phototypesetters, silk screen printers,          Now that we live in the 2010s,
and photolabs. Of course, the film could       everybody understands that whoever
be used only once, and it contained silver.   produces dangerous waste must pay
This silver could be recovered, first in the   for the collection and treatment of that
darkroom chemical waste, and, after the       waste. But in the 1980s the printing-
film was disposed, from the surface of         house owner could simply say that
the black-¬and-white film itself.              unless he was paid enough money for his
                                              silver waste – say 70-80% of the value
   Every single page of a newspaper           of the silver content – he would rather
required the use of a natural size film        tip the waste liquids into the sewer, and
sheet. The largest newspaper printing         send the film scrap into mixed waste.
houses would easily consume 1000
kilograms of film every month, and this           One customer at the Steet Elimaenkatu
contained more than ten kilograms of          in Helsinki made an indelible impression
silver.                                       on us. For some time I had actively tried
                                              to offer our services to the printing-
  And silver was what we wanted,              house foreman. For a shy guy like I was,
indeed. Recovering the silver was a very      this was not so easy. Normally we did
interesting technical challenge, and          not often contact the same printer again,
refining it into high quality (99.95%) silver  unless they were willing to start with us
was not a thing that just anyone could        in the first place. Anyway, taking care of
do.                                           the waste was not big business for them.
                                              And most often, there was ‘some other
   It took us quite a few years to realize    company’ who already took care of their
that our ambition was way greater             silver waste. In that case, we would have
than our business skills. We had to           to give even more money to the printer
rent industrial premises. We had to           in order to get the silver.
build a chemical treatment plant and a
laboratory, also we had to get official           But now our situation was getting
authority to treat dangerous waste. And       serious. We had high fixed expenses.

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