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How to Recycle Ink Cartridges

Recycle Ink Cartridges

There are two primary ways to minimize the environmental impact of ink cartridges. Your first option is to reuse them, either by using a DIY refill kit or by sending them back to the manufacturer to be refilled. Not all manufacturers offer this option, but some do. One big benefit of this option is that it can save you money because you don't have to buy a new cartridge. Ink cartridges can be reused a few times, but eventually they wear out and need to be recycled.

Your second option is to recycle the cartridges the first time they're emptied. Here's how to go about it:

Step 1: Keep your cartridges in good condition, as damaged cartridges cannot be remanufactured.

Step 2: Decide which method you want to use to when recycling your cartridges. You can return cartridges to the manufacturer (if they offer a program), return them to select retailers, or donate them to charities or schools that use ink cartridge recycling as a fundraiser. We'll touch on each of these options in the following steps.

Step 3: No matter which option you choose, if you plan to mail your cartridges, wrap each cartridge individually in a cushiony material (e.g. bubble wrap) to ensure it isn't damaged during transport.

Step 4 (Option 1): If you plan to return the cartridge to the manufacturer, start by calling to confirm there is a recycling program. (If not, opt for one of the other two options.) If the manufacturer does have a recycling program, ask them if they have any specific shipping requirements. Then send off the cartridges per their instructions.

Step 4 (Option 2): If you plan to return the cartridge to the retailer, call them first to confirm whether they accept cartridges for recycling and whether they have any specific requirements. Many brands including Costco, Walgreens, and major office supply stores accept used cartridges, so it may be as simple as dropping yours off. (Consult Earth911.com to locate the option nearest you.)

Some retailers—including Quill.com—offer a rewards program for ink cartridge recycling. If you purchased your cartridge from Quill, you can return the used cartridge free of charge by using our downloadable pre–paid shipping label. We'll reuse or recycle the cartridges, and you'll earn QuillCASH in return! We're proud to say that our customers have recycled an impressive 10 million cartridges to date.

Step 4 (Option 3): Several nonprofits collect donated ink cartridges to raise money for important causes. These include (but are not limited to) Cartridges for Kids and Recycle4Charity. If you would like to pursue this option, contact the nonprofit of your choice for specific instructions.

Recycling Ink Cartridges

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The Importance of Recycling Ink Cartridges

As demands on our planet's resources reach an all-time high, it's more important than ever to reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are many ways an office can minimize environmental impact, and one of the most effective strategies is to recycle ink cartridges.

North America uses approximately 400 million ink and toner cartridges annually—and more than 375 million of them are thrown away each year. (That's more than one million cartridges per day, or 11 cartridges per second.) This has several serious consequences for our environment:

  • Most discarded ink cartridges end up in landfills, where they take more than 1,000 years to degrade. Landfill waste is a mounting problem in the U.S.—it's eating up land at an alarming rate and is a major greenhouse gas emitter.
  • The ink from discarded cartridges may leak into nearby land or water sources, which can harm the surrounding environment, animals, marine life, and humans.
  • If a discarded cartridge is incinerated instead of sent to the landfill, it contributes to air pollution when the plastic is burned.
  • Virgin materials are required to produce new, replacement ink cartridges. For example, it takes 11 million gallons of oil to meet new ink cartridge demand for only seven months. Producing new cartridges also requires the use of large amounts of aluminum, plastic, and energy—the last of which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

In short, discarding ink cartridges is a tremendous waste—especially when you consider that nearly all the materials found in inkjet printer cartridges can be recycled or reused. That's the good and bad news rolled into one: Not recycling ink cartridges is a major drain on the environment, but thankfully it's incredibly easy to recycle cartridges.

There's no doubt about it: The right choice for people and planet is to recycle ink cartridges. With the options outlined above, doing so is easier than ever.

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