Don’t throw your old ink and toner cartridges away. The chemicals inside used cartridges easily leach out in landfills and get into waterways, where they can cause considerable damage to the environment-and the plastics and heavy metals in cartridges are also harmful. The plastic housing on a printer cartridge can take as much as a thousand years to decompose, according to some estimates.
Studies show approximately 30 million ink cartridges are thrown away in the U.K. each year; over 375 million are thrown into landfills worldwide. Even worse, only about 5% of used ink cartridges are recycled every year. But recycling has already done some good; inkjet cartridge recycling saves approximately 100 million litres of oil every year-that’s more than the oil spilled into the sea during the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
You can help the environment considerably by choosing to recycle your ink and toner cartridges. But not all recycling firms are the same. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a place to recycle your ink and toner cartridges.
Choose a company that remanufactures. Many of the larger printer manufacturing companies have recycling programs for ink and toner-but look more carefully. Instead of recycling the cartridges, some original manufacturers incinerate their products or ship them to third-party recyclers in Asia who wind up landfilling most of them. Others disassemble cartridges and recycle some components, disposing of others.
Original manufacturers have a stake in the cartridge recycling game. The more used cartridges they can keep out of the hands of remanufacturing companies, the more difficult they can make things for their competition. But they don’t always make the same commitment to recycling that remanufacturers make.
If you really want to keep ink and toner cartridges out of the environment, choose a company that specifically turns old cartridges into new ones. This way there are no extra parts to incinerate or send to landfills, and low-cost cartridges will continue to be available. It’s often the best option for the environment and for the low-cost cartridge industry.
Choose a company that accommodates your needs. Some companies allow you to drop off cartridges, while others will provide you with postage-paid envelopes to mail them in. Some local companies will even pick up cartridges for you, if you need to recycle a large enough volume. Others only serve customers in the States or in the U.K. Some are based online, while others are purely local. And some stores accept cartridges for recycling at some locations. There are plenty of ways to recycle ink and toner cartridges, so pick the one that works for you.
If you’re an individual or a business that doesn’t print a large volume, you may want to recycle only a few cartridges at a time. In these cases, some of the “postage paid” companies won’t work for you as they prefer to recycle in large volumes; you’ll be expected to mail cartridges to them in batches of ten or twenty or more. Find a company that will accept one or two cartridges at a time from customers; they’re not as numerous as those looking for bulk recycling customers, but they’re out there.
Pick your benefits. When choosing a cartridge recycling company, check to see what you get in return-in addition to helping the environment through your actions. Many remanufacturing companies will pay you for your cartridges in addition to paying for your postage to send them in. Others won’t pay you, but will pay your postage or pick up your cartridges directly, if they’re local. Stores that include cartridge dropoff points may give you discounts on new cartridges or store credit for recycling. Still others recycle for charity, and your payment is the knowledge that your donation benefits a good cause.
Recycling your ink and toner cartridges can be easy-once you find the right recycling method. But not all firms deliver on their promises to dispose of ink cartridges in an environmentally responsible way. If you want to be positive you’re keeping your ink cartridges out of landfills and incinerators, send them to a remanufacturing company. This way you can help the environment-and help keep the low-cost cartridge industry going.