Printer Cartridge Recycling Made Easy: When, Where, and How
Posted by Rob Errera on 05/16/2023
Printer cartridge recycling is important in reducing waste, conserving resources, and protecting the environment.
By participating in cartridge recycling programs, we can all do our part to reduce our environmental footprint and create a more sustainable future, especially now when printers, paper, and supplies are in short supply.
Recycling ink and toner cartridges is important for a number of reasons.
- Reducing waste: Printer cartridges are made from plastic and other materials that decompose in landfills for hundreds of years. By recycling cartridges, we can help reduce the amount of electronic waste that goes into landfills and reduce the environmental impact of printing.
- Conserving resources: Recycling printer cartridges conserves resources by reducing the need for new materials. Cartridge recycling programs can help recover materials like plastic, metal, and toner, which can be reused in producing new cartridges.
- Saving energy: Recycling printer cartridges saves energy by reducing the need for new materials and reducing the energy required to manufacture new cartridges.
- Cost savings: Recycling cartridges can be cost-effective for businesses and individuals, as many recycling programs offer incentives or discounts for returning used cartridges. Additionally, recycled cartridges are often less expensive than new ones, which can help reduce printing costs.
Understanding Printer Cartridges from a Recycling Perspective
Printer cartridges are made of plastic and metal and are 100% recyclable. This goes for both ink cartridges and toner cartridges. If there’s a cartridge in your printer, it can and should, be recycled.
But you can’t simply dump them in the trash where they will wind up in landfills. Printer cartridges contain electronic components made with toxic metals like:
These potentially harmful materials must be properly recycled to prevent environmental damage and possible hazards to public health.
Inkjet cartridges recycling
Inkjet cartridges can’t be crushed or melted, like plastic bottles. They contain remnants of liquid ink, a soggy sponge, a tiny computer chip, and various metal springs, clips, and screws. All of these items can be recycled, but it’s not a simple process.
Laser toner cartridges recycling
Toner cartridges are equally complex to recycle. They contain toner powder, photosensitive rollers, and other potentially harmful components.
Recyclability of Printer Cartridges
While most of a printer cartridge's components can be recycled, a few parts need special treatment.
- Print heads: Some printer cartridges have built-in print heads, which cannot be recycled. However, many cartridges have removable print heads, which can be recycled separately.
- Circuit boards: Some recycling programs are able to extract valuable metals from circuit boards and recycle them. These potentially harmful materials must be properly recycled to prevent environmental damage and possible risks to human health.
- Ink residue: Cartridges that still have ink residue inside may not be able to be recycled. However, some recycling programs may still accept them for recycling and use special processes to extract the ink and recycle the cartridge.
Other printer cartridge components, like plastic, metal, and toner, can all be recycled.
Preparing Cartridges for Recycling or Disposal
To prepare printer cartridges for recycling or disposal:
- Remove the cartridge from the printer: Turn it off and unplug it before removing the empty cartridge. Follow the instructions in your printer manual to safely remove the cartridge.
- Check for recycling instructions: Check the packaging or the manufacturer's website for recycling instructions. Most manufacturers offer free recycling programs or provide guidelines for preparing the cartridges for recycling.
- Seal the cartridge: Seal the old cartridge in a plastic bag or wrap it in tape to prevent any residual ink or toner powder from leaking out.
- Store the cartridge: If you cannot recycle it immediately, store the cartridge in a cool, dry place until you can recycle it.
- Recycle the cartridge: Take the cartridge to a recycling center or use a mail-back program to recycle the cartridge. Follow the instructions provided by the recycling program.
If you're unsure how to recycle your ink cartridges, check with your local recycling center or contact the manufacturer for guidance.
The recycling programs of office supply stores, top printer manufacturers, and recycling centers are discussed below.
Volume of post-consumer plastic material in the United States recovered for recycling
This graphic from Statista shows the amount of plastic products collected in the United States for recycling in 2019 and 2020.
Retailers and Recycling Programs
Nearly every office supply store, and many department stores, have areas where you can recycle toner cartridges,
All Walmart locations have kiosks where you can drop off empty ink and toner cartridges for recycling.
Staples is one of the biggest office supply retailers, with printer cartridge recycling bins at nearly every location.
How to Recycle Printer Cartridges
Office Depot and Office Max locations are other locations where you can recycle printer cartridges.
Stop in to pick up your prescription and drop off your empty printer cartridges!
You can drop used ink or toner cartridges into the recycling bins right inside Best Buy stores' front doors.
There are recycling bins near the front entrance of Target stores where you can recycle printer cartridges as well as aluminum, plastic, glass, and electronics.
Other Recycling Locations
Other cartridge recycling locations include regional recycling centers and local hazardous waste collection events. Check with your local recycling center to see if they accept printer cartridges for recycling.
Manufacturer-Specific Recycling Programs
Below are the recycling programs offered by the major printer manufacturers. Many recycling programs offer incentives or discounts for returning used cartridges, so be sure to check for any promotions or discounts that may be available.
HP & Samsung Recycling
HP's Planet Partners Recycling Program allows you to mail in or drop off empty HP and Samsung printer cartridges.
To recycle HP or Samsung printer cartridges:
- Visit HP’s Product Return and Recycling.
- Select your country in the Recycle tab
- Select “HP ink and toner cartridges.”
- Choose one of the recycling methods on the HP/Samsung Supplies Recycling page.
- Option 1: Drop off the used HP cartridges at Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, or Best Buy.
- Option 2: Get a free HP recycling shipping label and ship your cartridges back to HP.
HP Europe Print Circular Economy Story | Recycling | Sustainable Impact | HP
Canon offers free inkjet and toner cartridge recycling programs. Canon printer cartridges can be recycled at FedEx stores.
You can also ship used Canon printer cartridges to:
Cartridge Return Program
5980 Industrial Dr.
Gloucester, VA 23061
All Epson printing supplies can be recycled free of charge.
You can also ship used Epson printer cartridges to:
Epson America, Inc.
Attn: Recycling Center
2350 Stafford Road, Suite 101
Plainfield, IN 46168
Pack your old Brother toner in the pack the box your new toner came in and ship it back to Brother with the pre-paid Brother Smart Label.
Brother International Corporation Recycling Program:
c/o ERI Recycling Facility
3100 Reeves Rd.
Plainfield, IN 46168
Brother recycling scheme - Recycle your genuine toner cartridges for free
Ricoh SMART Return allows you to recycle your printer cartridges worldwide.
You can ship recyclables to:
Ricoh Americas Parts Recycling Center
250 W. North Avenue,
Lombard, IL 60148
Ricoh Australia Consumables Recycling Program
Lexmark Cartridge Collection Program (LCCP) offers free mail-in cartridge recycling.
You can ship printer cartridges to Lexmark for recycling:
Lexmark International c/o Sims Recycling Solutions (J02050)
417 Sanford Road
Lavergne, TN 37086
Loop into the Circular Economy with Lexmark's Cartridge Recycling App for Europe
The Xerox Green World Alliance diligently collects and recycles ink and toner cartridges.
You can ship Xerox printer cartridges back to the company for recycling:
Xerox Corporation Recycling
State Route 63
Middletown, OH 45044
Sharp’s Stop, Drop, Recycle Program covers shipping and recycling costs.
Ship empty Sharp ink and toner cartridges to:
2051 Meridian Place
Hebron, KY 41048
The correct way to recycle your Sharp toner cartridges!
The Panasonic GREEN IMPACT program is committed to recycling all of the company's electronic products, including ink and toner cartridges.
OKI - Oki offers free recycling of all printing supplies, drums, transfer belts, fusers, and printer cartridges.
Return Oki printer cartridges to an authorized OKI Data returns location or ship to:
Oki Reclamation Center
c/o Buffalo Transport
1 LaSalle Ave
Buffalo, NY 14214
Local and Mail-in Recycling Options
Fire up your web browser and type, “Printer cartridge recycling near me.” You will get a list of recycling locations near you and a handy map.
Many municipalities hold annual Hazardous Waste Collection Days, where you can drop off printer cartridges for recycling.
You can also consider one of the programs below.
Cartridges for Kids
Cartridges for Kids use recycling as a fundraising opportunity. For nearly twenty-five years, this organization has helped support schools, churches, and children’s organizations such as Saint Jude’s, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Children’s Miracle Network.
If you have a charity cause, Cartridges for Kids can help you raise money while recycling your printer cartridges.
Earth911.com is committed to reducing waste both on the corporate level and in your backyard. Their website is full of cutting-edge, eco-friendly ideas, and a simple search box helps you find a recycling center near you.
Close The Loop
This sustainability organization can help your business or home set up a closed-loop recycling program.
Close The Loop tries to create a circular economy, transforming items often dumped in landfills or oceans into valuable supply chain resources.
Recycling by mail
Some online retailers have recycling programs allowing you to mail in your used cartridges.
USPS BlueEarth Federal Recycling Program
You can recycle empty toner and inkjet cartridges for free with the BlueEarth Recycling Program spearheaded by the United States Postal Service.
TerraCycle offers free programs for hard-to-recycle waste, like litter and hazardous chemicals. Regarding ink and toner cartridges, they provide a free mail-in program where you can recycle your printer cartridges at no cost.
Clover Environmental offers diverse recycling programs, including Evolve Recycling, which pays for unused and unexpired ink and toner cartridges. You can recycle any used ink or toner cartridge through Clover’s mail-in recycling program.
Selling Toner Cartridges as an Alternative to Recycling
Selling unused cartridges
There might be life left in your unused printer cartridges. Cash, too! Toner doesn’t expire, so if you have OEM toner cartridges in the original, unopened packaging, you can sell toner online.
Selling unused ink cartridges is possible, too, as long as at least six months remain before their expiration date.
Selling used cartridges
There are some online buyers of empty toner cartridges, but we are not sure of how reputable they are. Make sure you thoroughly research buyers of empty ink or toner cartridges before striking a deal with them.
Another option is to recycle your printer cartridges for a charitable cause, which could earn you a tax deduction.
Non-profit organizations like Cartridges for Kids and Close the Loop accept printer cartridges for recycling and use the proceeds to support charitable causes.
The Importance of Recycling Printer Cartridges
Recycling printer cartridges is an important practice that helps to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and save money.
Regarding the environment, printer cartridges are made of plastic, metal, and other materials that take hundreds of years to decompose. When these materials are not recycled, they end up in landfills and contribute to environmental pollution.
Recycling printer cartridges reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, conserves natural resources, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Recycling printer cartridges helps to conserve natural resources such as oil, water, and minerals. The production of new printer cartridges requires using these resources, but recycling them helps reduce the need for new materials.
The process of manufacturing new printer cartridges requires a significant amount of energy.
Recycling cartridges reduces the need for new materials, which in turn reduces the energy required to produce them. Combined, these practices help conserve resources, save money, and reduce environmental harm.
How do I know when to recycle my printer cartridges?
When you install a new printer cartridge, you must recycle the old cartridge. Often it’s as easy as taking the old cartridge out and putting it into the box the new cartridge came in.
How do I recycle my printer cartridges?
After removing the empty cartridges from your printer, wrap them in plastic to prevent possible leakage and put them aside for recycling.
Where should I recycle my printer cartridges?
You have a few options.
- Drop off your empty printer cartridges at any office supply store, or a Walmart, Target, or Best Buy.
- Drop off your printer cartridge at a local recycling facility.
- Mail your empty printer cartridges back to the manufacturer or a third-party recycling program.
Can I get paid for recycling printer cartridges?
If you have unused, unexpired ink or toner cartridges, you may be able sell them. Used ink and toner cartridges can sometimes be resold or donated for a charitable cause.
Can I throw empty printer cartridges in the trash?
No way! Ink and toner cartridges are made of plastics, and you don’t want them ending up in landfills.
Plus, there are trace amounts of toxic metals used in the production of ink and toner cartridges, and you don’t want those loose in the environment either. Do the right thing and properly recycle your printer cartridges.
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