Ink Cartridge Recycling
With 243 million laser and inkjet cartridges ending up in landfill in the USA each year, ink cartridge recycling is a major way of reducing the mounds of plastic clogging up our dumps. That's more than 200 million pounds of solid waste that could be avoided and as much again in new raw materials that could be saved.
Ink cartridge recycling makes sense on all fronts. Many of the components in these spent cartridges are still useable while some of the components must be disposed of in specific ways for environmental reasons. Leftover ink can pollute the air and water and be harmful to health, while t he plastic in the cartridge cases can take 450 years to start degrading and over 1000 years before it fully degrades.
Although the big name printer brands will only recycle their own brand products, most cartridge shops will recycle all makes of cartridges. These companies recycle the used cartridges and sell remanufactured ink cartridges at a discount.
When you bring in a cartridge for recycling it is thoroughly cleaned and inspected before being refilled, tested and repackaged. For cartridges gone beyond their useful life any working parts are salvaged and used again while the others are disposed of. It's worth enquiring at shops where and how they dispose of spent parts. A trash can out in the yard that goes directly to landfill is far less environmentally friendly than correct sorting and disposal of parts.
If you're sending back your cartridges to the big name manufacturers check exactly how much recycling they are doing themselves. For some, ink cartridge recycling means sending all cartridges to an incinerator, effectively taking them off the market and out of the hands of remanufacturers. Others just sort the waste without ever reusing parts and some actually reuse and remanufacture their own cartridges. If you want to be really green you need to do some footwork and find out exactly what the manufacturers' social and environmental policy is.
Although about one third of businesses in the United States use recycled cartridges, the number of new cartridges sold each year in the US would still stretch all the way from Washington DC to California and back if placed end to end. Some of these cartridges, especially toner cartridges, could be refilled up to ten times. So think seriously about ink cartridge recycling and the impact it could have on your wallet and your environment.