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Inkjet Cartridge Disposal and Recycling

If you have a printer in your workplace or at home, it will use inkjet cartridges to print pages. These ink cartridges can be quite expensive, and they’re also made from lots of plastic and other materials, which can make recycling inkjet cartridges difficult. Disposing of ink cartridges properly is vital to protect our planet.

Whether you use lots of inkjet cartridges across one or more printers at work or at home, it’s important you understand how to dispose of ink cartridges the right way. Read our guide to find out how to dispose of and recycle old and used ink cartridges in a safe and responsible way.

Inkjet cartridge recycling

  • Who invented inkjet cartridges?

    The continuous inkjet method used by inkjet printers and cartridges to spray ink onto pages was originally created and patented by Lord Kelvin in the mid-1800s. Here his Syphon Recorder used the technology to trace telegraph messages in wavy lines on a roll of paper.

    However, modern inkjet printing was invented in the 20th century. It was developed in the 1950s in Japan by Canon engineer Ichiro Endo and in the USA by John Vaught and a team at Hewlett-Packard’s Corvallis Division. Later It was used in commercial production by Siemens.

  • What are inkjet cartridges made from?

    Inkjet cartridges are made from a type of plastic. This is usually an engineering grade polymer plastic. Inside the cartridge is the ink, which is a coloured liquid or paste. Ink contains various varnishes, solvents, resins, and additives – which can be harmful if they leak.

  • Can you recycle inkjet cartridges?

    Yes, once you have empty inkjet cartridges it’s possible to recycle almost all of them. Up to 97% of inkjet printer cartridges can be recycled but it depends on the manufacturer and materials it’s made from. The easiest way to recycle inkjet cartridges is to return them to the manufacturer – as most now offer recycling services.

    This ensures your old printer cartridges are recycled properly based on their type and materials. It avoids them ending up in landfill, while saving energy and money required to otherwise make new ink cartridges.

  • How do you dispose of ink cartridges?

    The best way to dispose of ink cartridges is to return them to the manufacturer – if they offer such a service. They’ll recycle your empty printer cartridges in the correct manner based on what they’re made from. Otherwise, you can recycle ink cartridges that are clean, dry, and empty, alongside the rest of your plastic recycling or household recycling in many cases.

    Because ink cartridges are made from harmful plastics that take thousands of years to decompose, you should never throw ink cartridges in the bin with general waste. Even if the cartridge is empty, it may still contain potentially harmful ink which could leak into soil and damage plants and crops.

  • What are some alternatives to ink cartridge disposal?

    Because ink cartridges aren’t suitable for normal decomposition, many printing companies now offer free recycling services – as almost 100% of the materials in an old printer cartridge can be recycled. If you’re looking to recycle ink cartridges, contact the manufacturer, office supply stores or government schemes that offer to take your used cartridges for free.

    If you find yourself with too many ink cartridges that haven’t been used, some companies will pay to take them off your hands.

  • How are inkjet cartridges recycled?

    Once the inkjet cartridges are sent for recycling, they’re separated into different components. This can include parts for both plastic recycling and metal recycling. Then they’re cleaned to get rid of any potentially harmful ink liquid or paste still in the old cartridges. Finally, the plastic and metal components are normally melted down and then moulded or repurposed to create new products.

  • Why is recycling ink cartridges so important?

    The inks present in printer ink and toner cartridges can be incredibly toxic to human, animal, and plant health. WEEE waste is one of the most harmful forms of waste, and if left in landfill it can leak harmful chemicals into the environment that could cause various health issues.

    Printer cartridges can take more than 1,000 years to dispose, meaning that they can damage the environment long after you’ve used them. As recycling ink cartridges from almost all manufacturers is possible, it’s important that every effort is made to do so.

  • What are some facts about ink cartridges?

    Some key facts about disposing of and recycling ink cartridges are that:

    • Around 1 billion ink cartridges are used every year.
    • In the UK, more than 65 million ink cartridges are produced and sold each year.
    • Up to three pints of oil are used to create one ink cartridge.
    • Around 375 million ink cartridges are thrown away into landfill every year.
    • In the US alone, around eight ink cartridges are thrown away each second.
    • Less than 30% of all ink cartridges are properly recycled in the world.
  • Where can you take empty ink cartridges to recycle or dispose of them for free?

    There are many ways to recycle ink cartridges. If you bought your ink from a specific manufacturer, most of them now offer a free recycling service. To recycle these, you need to request a special box to put them in. Once you receive the box, place your used cartridges in it and post it back to the company for free.

    Alongside manufacturing programmes, some companies also offer free recycling programmes. They may pay you if you have surplus cartridges you haven’t used. There are also charities where you can donate printer cartridges for recycling – such as The Recycling Factory and Recycle4Charity.

    If you don’t want to go through the hassle of mailing your cartridges back, some office supply stores also recycle these cartridges.

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