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How to Recycle Ink Cartridges: 5 Useful Tips

A jumbled stack of empty ink-jet printer cartridges

If you use your printer a lot, you’ll find your office overflowing with empty cartridges in no time. Considering that they’re made of plastic, it’s not the best idea to just chuck them in the trash. But how can you responsibly dispose of empty ink cartridges? It isn’t as simple as tossing it in the recycling bin with your aluminum cans and glass bottles.

You can’t throw ink cartridges in the bin, but you can prevent them from filling up landfills by turning them in to various companies, selling them, or refilling them to reuse. Let’s check out which option is right for you.

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Why Are Recycling Ink Cartridges Important?

Ink cartridges are estimated to take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose when thrown away and shipped to a landfill 1. Considering that they’re plastic products, recycled cartridges help conserve oil resources on the Earth by reducing the demand for plastic. Even individual efforts add up when you stop to consider that it takes up to 3 pints of oil to produce one ink cartridge.

Another important consideration is the ocean. Plastic pollution is a serious concern, and empty cartridges can contribute to pockets of pollution like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This accumulation of plastic and other manmade trash occupies more than 600,000 square miles between Hawaii and California. The importance of recycling ink cartridges grows more if you use a lot of ink, like for producing high-quality photos.

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How to Recycle Ink Cartridges

1. Drop Them Off at an Office Supply Store

Office supply stores will happily accept empty ink cartridges and refill them for sale. Bundle your cartridges together in a plastic bag and look for an Office Depot or Staples near you. To be sure they accept cartridges, call them beforehand to confirm.

2. Locate a Household Recycling Plant

You can use sites like Earth911 to locate recycling plants near you that accept ink cartridges and toner. Depending on your location and how feasible it is for you to drive there, this is a great way to recycle large amounts of cartridges or ink toner. Earth911 also links you to the iRecycle app, which details over a million ways to recycle or reuse hundreds of household waste materials.

3. Check for Cartridge Manufacturer Recycling Programs

Many cartridge makers, like HP, have ink cartridge recycling programs. Check your cartridge’s packaging or labeling for more information about how to turn them in for recycling. The most common method is to bundle them up and send them in the mail.

4. Make Some Money

Companies like Cartridges for Kids is a program that pays you for used and empty ink cartridges. They refill them and donate them to various businesses, charities, nonprofits, and churches.

The amount of money you get varies based on the type of cartridge, including whether it’s a virgin or non-virgin cartridge. You won’t get rich, but a few cents per cartridge adds up over time.

5. Refill & Reuse

You can buy ink refilling kits online for affordable prices, and they’re fairly simple to use. Most kits consist of a screwdriver, gloves, a syringe, and ink for refilling. If you use a lot of ink, it may be worth your time to simply reuse the same cartridges rather than paying for new ones every time you run dry on ink.

It’s important to note that cartridges will eventually wear out after repeated refills and need to eventually be completely replaced.

Ink cartridge refuelling with the syringe
Image By: Andrew Buckin, Shutterstock

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Ink cartridges are a serious plastic pollution problem, with millions of plastic cartridges clogging up landfills everywhere people use printers. By dropping your used cartridges off at a home office store, selling them to companies, or refilling them, you can help the environment with minimal effort.

Featured Image Credit: Ba_peuceta, Shutterstock


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