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What You Need to Know about Recycling Printer Cartridges

October 22, 2019 at 9:15 AM / by Laina Davidson, Digital Marketing Specialist

If recycling were readily available in more areas of our lives, we’d probably recycle most of our broken or unneeded products and used containers, right? Unfortunately, without a recycling program, many offices throw out their empty printer cartridges, or let them pile up in the office.

While it’s easy to throw those empty cartridges away, it’s also hazardous to the environment. Ink and toner cartridges have toxic chemicals in them, and there’s often ink left even when the printer determines the ink is low. Plus, ink cartridges can last in a landfill for over 400 years!

ImageNet Consulting’s ink recycling program makes recycling printer cartridges easy and accessible. Simply gather empty cartridges around the office, and we’ll pick them up (or arrange to have them shipped to us free of charge). This guide illustrates the environmental and financial impact of ink cartridges so you can get a bigger picture of how you and your business can benefit from recycling your ink cartridges and make a difference.

The Environmental Impact of Empty Cartridges

Both laser printers and inkjet printers use removable cartridges to print. These cartridges hold either the toner (for laser printers) or ink (for inkjet printers), and both are harmful to the environment when they end up in the trash.

Laser printer toner is a powdered mixture of plastic polymer particles, carbon, and coloring agents/dyes. These microplastics are what the National Ocean Service warns make up the majority of debris found in our oceans and lakes. Like other plastics, laser toner takes a long time (up to 1,000 years) to biodegrade and ends up sitting in landfills instead.

Inkjet ink is made of dye, a carrier agent, and additives like wax and other drying compounds. The carrier agent typically used is petroleum, which is also used to create the plastic in the empty cartridges. Like the polymer in laser printers, petroleum is harmful to the environment, and that’s just the carrier agents.

Toners and inks both use certain dyes that can be toxic to the environment too, including reactive red 23 dye, acid yellow 23 dye, and direct blue 199 dye. These carcinogenic compounds are known as volatile organic compounds. Each printer cartridge thrown away (which includes 375 million empty cartridges each year, 70% of which are never properly disposed of or recycled) must be replaced by a new one.

Manufacturing a new printer ink or toner cartridge consumes between three ounces and three quarts of oil, depending on the cartridge. When you also factor in the extra toner or ink left in so-called empty cartridges, the waste is significant.

How to Recycle Ink Cartridges

Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to recycle empty cartridges through third-party ink recycling programs. It may be tempting to refill them manually, but this isn’t recommended. Printer cartridges store ink and toner in sealed containers to protect them from clogging by environmental factors. Exposure to air can dry liquid ink and clump powdered toner through atmospheric humidity.

ImageNet accepts any condition of empty ink or toner cartridge, even damaged ones. Recycled cartridges in our recycling program go through a more stringent process the simply refilling them. Empty cartridges are disassembled, cleaned, and any broken parts are replaced. Every piece is rigorously inspected for quality before reassembly.

Once reassembled, empty cartridges are refilled and refurbished to be reused in another printer. This process saves the environment and saves money for both the ink recycler and customer. The price of creating a brand-new cartridge from scratch is removed, so buying refurbished ink is also part of the recycling process.

Save Money When You Buy Refurbished Ink

It wasn’t long ago that prefilled ink cartridges were frowned upon by printer manufacturers. These companies depended on the subscription-model pricing of consumables to make a profit, and many printers were built with features to disable the use of third-party inks.

This business practice was shut down in 2017 when the Supreme Court denied Lexmark’s attempt at suing refurbished printer cartridge manufacturers for patent infringement. This landmark case made it possible for third-party vendors to service and refill empty cartridges at a fraction of the cost of original equipment manufacturers.

These savings are passed on to the end-users. However, although refurbished printer cartridges are lower-priced, they aren’t lower quality.

Recycled ink cartridges are rebuilt to exact manufacturer specifications and often last even longer than the originals. This is because print manufacturers have been known to limit cartridge capacities to encourage more sales and increase revenues. ImageNet doesn’t share in those goals.

At ImageNet, we’re interested in partnering with our clients to save money and the environment. We do this through our ink recycling programs, as well as managed print services that proactively monitor performance in real-time.

Learn more about our ink recycling program and how to save money and the environment by contacting an ImageNet consultant today!

Topics: Printer Ink

Written by Laina Davidson, Digital Marketing Specialist

Laina Davidson is ImageNet Consulting's Digital Marketing Specialist.

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