136: Dispose of printer cartridges responsibly

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

Printer cartridges are another growing eco-problem – but they don’t have to be

For this action, please resolve to dispose of printer cartridges responsibly.

Why is this necessary?

Between offices and home computing, we get through millions of inkjet and laser toner cartridges every year. A large proportion of these still end up in landfill, which leads to pollution from the plastic and toner chemicals.

Plastic pollution needs to be brought under control. For printer cartridges there are good systems in place to do this in most countries, and we should all be using them.

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

1. Reduce

The first step in limiting plastic waste from our printing activity is to limit our printing in the first place. Most documents can now be stored, displayed and shared electronically so unless a legal signature is required, try not to print. Of course, you’ll be saving paper too, and money!

2. Re-use

Many inkjet cartridges can be re-used, it is possible to buy refill kits. Care needs to be taken refilling the cartridges as of course ink can be messy, but with care you can save a lot of plastic use and the cost is less too.

inkjet refill kit

3. Recycle

Printer cartridges can generally be recycled efficiently, and in fact some recyclers will pay for the empty cartridges. This means packing them up and posting, often to a freepost address. We realise that this won’t be readily available in every country, but it is worth checking. Certainly in the UK for example, virtually any printer cartridge can be recycled easily.

Alternatively, many charities will take the cartridges from you, as they have deals with the recycling companies. So everyone benefits; the recycling company gets the business, the charity gets a donation, and you dispose of your cartridges safely and responsibly.

Lots of examples can be found with this simple Ecosia search


And of course you can always contact local charities or your favourite charity to offer your cartridges!

If you buy mainstream brand laser toner cartridges, such as Canon, Brother, Epsom and so on, the manufacturers have recycling programmes of their own in place too. When you open the box of a new cartridge, take care to preserve the packaging to return your old one. You will find a return freepost label in the box or available to download from the company’s website. Used cartridges in good condition are fully recycled by responsible makers and again, everyone benefits.

Take action

We know that this is not innovative rocket science, printer cartridges have long been recyclable, but it’s good to be reminded of these easy eco-actions from time to time.

So remember, limit your printing as much as possible in the home and at work, refill inkjet cartridges when you can, and always recycle rather than throw into the bin – either through a charity or the manufacturer’s return scheme.

There’s no excuse!

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