What do you do with Empty Printer Cartridges?

After recently surveying 1,000 Australian men and women aged 18-65+, Ink Station found a staggering 45% throw their empty printer cartridges in the rubbish instead of having them refilled or recycling them correctly.

Why is this such a big issue?
Toner and ink cartridges are made up of fine plastic particles, carbon and toxic colouring agents, all of which are not something mother nature can easily degrade. It would take hundreds of years, at best, before the cartridges deteriorate. During that time, the ink or toner in the cartridge can seep into the surrounding soil or water, poisoning it for centuries long after the cartridge has degraded.

An article by Planet Green Recycle states that as much as 97% of an empty toner cartridge can be recycled and made again into a new cartridge.

Empty Print Cartridge Recycling Infographic


What about the other results?
We found, there are 39% who recycle but didn’t specify whether they throw the empty cartridge in a normal recycling bin, get their cartridge refilled or take them to a store or government official who can correctly recycle them.

It was surprising how low the results were for both refilling cartridges (7%) and recycling appropriately (7%).

Of the respondents, 2% throw their cartridges in a standard recycling bin. While they have the best intentions, the process required for recycling printer cartridges is different to that of plastic, paper or metal. Like mobile phones or batteries, printer cartridges need to be recycled in a particular way. You can use the Planet Ark website to find your local store that collects cartridge for proper recycling. Planet Ark are a not-for-profit environmental organisation.

Where do I take my empty print cartridges?
It was found that when asking people where they take their cartridges to recycle a majority, 46% to be exact, get their empty cartridges re-filled. Having your cartridge refilled is a great option, it helps the environment and is cost effective, but refilling is not something all printer companies support.

The next most popular option was Office works (18%). It’s no surprise since Officeworks are so well known for supplying and offering support with office stationery and devices. What you might not know is that Officeworks have collected over 5 million printer cartridges and have been a member of Planet Ark’s Recycling Program for 12 years. Other stores who participate in the program are Australia Post, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, and The Good Guys.

Local councils (1%) and libraries (3%) both have very low percentages. This may be due to a lack of knowledge that you can take your empty cartridges there or simply because going to a store is a lot easier to do.

The Conclusion
While people understand the importance of recycling paper, there is still a long way to go before they have the same mindset about recycling printer cartridges. With devices like mobiles and e-readers minimising the printing of newspapers and books, we are still far from having a purely digital lifestyle. Printing still has an important role in our lives and it is important that we raise awareness now and do what we can to minimise the damage that may exist in the future.