Recycling grows in popularity every year as more people become aware of how seemingly minor actions can contribute to a healthier planet. From cans and bottles to paper and paint, more of our goods and packaging are designed to be reused, and more applications for recycled matter are being developed everyday. It’s even easier than ever to minimize your waste on the go, thanks in part to efforts made by local municipalities and environmentalists to provide public recycling bins and help get the word out on what can (and can’t) be reused.
Simply throwing an item in the blue bin doesn’t ensure it won’t end up in a landfill though. In many cases, the facilities that process recycled goods don’t have the type of specialization necessary to deal with some materials that are otherwise recyclable. One such item that often ends up in the trash unnecessarily: ink and toner cartridges.
According to A Greener Refill, upwards of 375 million cartridges are thrown away yearly, many of them winding up in landfills. For the sake of perspective, that’s more than a million cartridges daily or eleven cartridges each second. In the time it took me to confirm these numbers and type them out, somewhere between twenty and fifty cartridges hit the wastebasket.
Reusing these seemingly small items is incredibly important—-and can even put a little extra money in your pocket at the end of the day. More on that later. First, here are some reasons why it’s immensely beneficial have your ink and toner cartridges reused:
Reason #1: Save resources. A lot of inkjet cartridges fit in the palm of your hand and really don’t seem like they require a lot to make. But, because of what they are made of, the production of ink and toner vessels is actually fairly resource intensive. According to A Greener Refill, “more than three quarts of oil are consumed in producing each new laser cartridge. For manufacturing a new inkjet cartridge, about three ounces of oil are required.” Over time, this amounts to a whole lot of black gold going from the ground straight into the trash every time you toss them in the trash. Recycling all inkjet and laser cartridges could conserve upwards of 11 million gallons of oil over a seven month period. And this is all before we consider the other components such as aluminum and paper that make up an ink cartridge—or the resources needed to get each.
Reason #2: Prevent waste. It may come as no surprise that cartridges don’t compost well. Like most plastics, they will sit in a landfill for about a thousand years before decomposing back to their basic elements. When you think about 375 million of these guys piling up around the world annually—remember, eleven per second!—you start to gain perspective on the amount of unnecessary clutter that can be prevented by simply recycling and reusing cartridges. Beyond that, space in landfills is hard to come by in some areas such as NYC and Massachusetts, where garbage is regularly shipped by train to states with more space. Brian Palmer at Salon writes “One ton of garbage traveling 500 miles by train from New York to the Mountain State would generate 115 pounds of carbon dioxide. If New York City shipped all of its trash to West Virginia, the commute would produce 760,000 tons of CO2 each year.”
Recycling your cartridges helps prevent hundreds of pounds worth of waste from sitting in landfills over time.
Reason #3: Lower costs in the long run. Recycling cartridges not only cuts down on our environmental impact, it has economic benefits as well. Cartridges can be remanufactured by ink producers, a process that cuts down on the amount of manufacturing cost they need to undertake. This means lower prices for remanufactured ink products when you buy them at the store.
So, now you see the benefits of recycling your cartridges. But where do you get started? In many cities, waste management will direct you to convenient municipal recycling options. However if you live somewhere where you need to take care of business on your own, you have options. Here are three easy ways to get started:
Option #1: Donate to Charity. Check to see if your favorite charities have an ink cartridge collection program. Like old cell phones, eyeglasses, and automobiles, charities accept used goods to help support their cause. A quick Google search leads you to a variety of different organizations that take spent ink cartridge donations—either directly, like the good folks at Big Cat Rescue or through third-party organizers like Funding Factory. Wherever your sensibilities lie, you can double your positive impact by donating cartridges.
Option #2: Recycle Them Where You Bought Them. Send them back whence they came! Most major retailers that sell ink will take spent cartridges for recycling, or direct you towards a resource that will accept and reuse them. If you’re buying more ink, throw your old cartridge in a sandwich bag and take it with you . . . there’s a strong likelihood one of the associates can direct you to a dropbox for recycling. Two birds, one stone. Some businesses may not be able to back the ink directly but you still have a chance to do the right thing! Not sure where to take your used cartridges? Earth911.com created a recycling location finder that’s incredibly easy to use. Just type in the material you want to recycle and your zipcode and you will be directed to a number of local recycling facilities in your area!
Option #3: Finally, Sell Them. Did I mention you can sell them too!? You may have noticed, ink and toner cartridges can get expensive if you print a lot, and as a result there’s a rising demand for remanufactured ink. This means that cartridges themselves are valuable resources even once their precious payload of color is spent. Several online outlets exist that purchase cartridges, often for upwards of $4 per cartridge, that are designed to make the process quick and user friendly.