Ink Cartridge Recycling Methods
You may be wondering what to do with your empty ink cartridges?
There are two main methods of recycling ink cartridges and they are direct recycling and remanufacturing/refilling the cartridge.
Direct recycling is where the cartridge is broken down and reconstructed into a brand new cartridge as efficiently as possible.
You will need to do your research though to make sure you don’t end up doing more damage than good when you send off a cartridge for recycling.
The major printer manufacturers have all been undertaking environmentally friendly schemes and activities for years now. HP began their first recycling scheme back in 1991 and has since recycled over 265 million ink cartridges. Canon began their toner recycling scheme in 1990 which was a world first. Lexmark also has a well documented cartridge return programme doing both recycling and refilling, Brother also runs very similar operations … the list is endless!
The main intention of printer manufacturers appears to be limiting the amount of cartridges that end up in landfill. But direct recycling consumes a massive amount of energy and some people think it could be doing more damage in the long run.
Canon says that they reuse 75% of every toner cartridge returned to them, and of the remaining 25% all of it is recycled to other products such as roof tiles! HP aims to be able to reuse all of the plastic in its cartridges, but how much energy does this use? If you have ever seen a HP 78 or HP 17 cartridge, you will notice they are very sturdy and contain a lot of plastic, the energy needed to break down this cartridge must be huge. These cartridges can fit into over 50 different models of HP printers, that is over 50 consumer demands for 1 cartridge. Would it not be better to refill these cartridges, as the cleaning and refilling process is energy efficient, rather then break up the entire cartridge and rebuild it from scratch?
Companies like HP claim that this process affects quality to such an extent that they won’t consider it. Whilst they do have a point, I’m sure not all HP users will be aiming for Van Gogh clarity; they just want something cheap that does the job. It is here that remanufactured cartridges come into their all. When you take a look at an Epson compatible TO711 black ink cartridge, you realise how simple a cartridge is, it is essentially just a tank full of ink.
Epson Ink Cartridges
Epson have all the important technology such as the print heads, permanently fitted inside the printer, therefore the cartridges have no value. Essentially they are just a plastic housing for the ink you are using to print. Due to this, there really is nothing to recycle. Epson have said they incinerate all the returned ink cartridges in the most environmentally friendly process. It is much better to take your empty Epson cartridges to your local plastic recycling centre!
What is the future for cartridge recycling?
The majority of major printer manufacturers have seen their shortcomings and are trying to improve the situation in their new printer models. Although HP still design uneconomical printers, as soon as one colour runs out in the colour cartridge then the printer will refuse the print. Their solution is that as soon as one colour runs out all the remaining inks will blend together to produce the empty ink colour until the cartridge runs out. But you would think this would use more ink and drain the cartridge faster!? But it is advertised as a ‘green scheme’.
You need to be careful of some major printer manufacturer recycling schemes, as some of them will transport the cartridge literally around the world. See an example below:
1. Cartridges for recycling arrive in the South Coast of America
2. Plastic is then shipped to North America
3. Refined cartridges are sent to China for packaging
4. The cartridges are then returned to America for sale
The best way to recycle your empty ink cartridges is through UK cartridge recycling envelopes, who donate a small amount of money to charity for each cartridge received. This way the cartridge is sent direct to an ink cartridge remanufacturing company, fully tested and cleaned out and then refilled with ink and sent straight on to another customer, whilst helping a charitable cause in the process. So think twice before you send off your empty cartridges for recycling … you may be doing more harm then good!!