Every year, the amount of e-waste generated across the world goes up. Smartphones, laptops, and printers constantly get shiny new upgrades and yet getting rid of the outdated electronics they replace continues to be challenging. In fact, between 2015 and 2020, the amount of e-waste produced around the world increased by 21%, and while some of it is recycled, too much is still ending up in landfill.
Printer cartridges are a common victim. In fact, around 375 million cartridges are thrown away every year, creating a huge amount of unnecessary waste in the process. However, almost all ink and toner cartridges can be recycled and reused, allowing business to prevent waste and save money at the same time.
Recycling your ink, instead of throwing it away, is key to preserving precious natural resources, working towards zero waste and promoting a more circular economy that promotes more efficient use of all types of materials.
Why Recycle Ink and Toner Cartridges?
In general, ink and toner cartridges are thrown away because people either don’t know how to recycle them or don’t realize that they can be recycled.
Despite their unremarkable appearance, cartridges consume a lot of raw materials. On average, it takes around 3.5 liters of oil to make just one new ink or toner cartridge. If these cartridges are thrown away, the raw material is lost forever, and virgin oil has to be used to fulfill demand and produce more cartridges.
It’s estimated that reusing ink cartridges instead of throwing them away could save an incredible 11 million gallons of oil in just seven months. If all businesses, organizations, and individuals started recycling their cartridges today, this could have a considerable impact on our oil consumption and help to reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfill—it’s a simple way to make significant changes to the levels of waste generated by businesses of all sizes.
How are Ink Cartridges Recycled?
One of the most common ways for ink cartridges to be recycled is for them to be cleaned, tested, refilled and reused. This process is relatively easy and sustainable. Cartridges are simply emptied of any excess ink, cleaned, and then refilled with an ink of comparable quality. They’re then tested to ensure they’re in full working order before being resold. In addition to being eco-friendly, remanufactured cartridges are far more affordable than original cartridges from your printer manufacturer, so you get the bonus of saving on printing costs too! LD Products has been helping its customers print affordably with remanufactured ink cartridges for over twenty years, offering a low cost, environmentally-friendly alternative to buying name brand ink.
Some recycling centers can also recycle the materials that the cartridges are made from. This allows recovery of some of the resources consumed in the manufacturing process and prevents them from ending up in a landfill. Remanufactured cartridges vastly scale back the production of original cartridges, and thus lessen the damage to the environment.
How to Recycle Ink and Toner Cartridges
In order for your ink cartridges to be re-used, they need to arrive at the recycling program, charity or store in good condition. Ideally, you should recycle them as soon as they’ve been used, as this stops the ink residue left inside the cartridge from drying out, making them easier to clean. The cartridges can then be refilled, re-sold and reused.
If you’re a business or organization that wants to recycle its used ink cartridges, you have a number of options available. Most major office supply retailers will accept used or empty cartridges, or will direct you towards a resource that is willing to accept them. This can be an easy way to dispose of your old cartridges and ensure they are recycled correctly.
Some charities also accept cartridges as donations. They are able to sell them on to companies that refill the cartridges and re-market them. Alternatively, you can sell the used cartridges yourself and make the recycling process part of your own income stream—an ideal project for any company looking to boost its eco-credentials.
Finally, you can use a specialist recycling service that deals with e-waste responsibly and safely. For larger businesses in particular, cartridges can be collected directly from your office and disposed of sustainably. Additionally, professional recycling services can give your business greater insight into what happens to your waste, like insightful waste diversion metrics that help you improve your sustainability goals, so you can make a positive impact on the environment.
This post was contributed by Shannon Bergstrom, a LEED Green Associate, TRUE waste advisor and sustainability operations manager at RTS, a tech-driven waste and recycling management company. Shannon consults with clients across industries on sustainable waste practices.