How to Recycle Laser and Ink Cartridges

An Overview on Recycling Recycle Ink Cartridges

A printer would be pretty useless without a functioning printer cartridges, whether you use an inkjet, bubble jet, or laser printer. But the rate at which we go through these toner-filled electronics can be pretty astounding, adding to a mounting printer cartridge disposable problem. Just think about how often you replace your printer cartridges and multiply that by the number of printers in the world, and you’ll get an idea of the size of the problem.

Despite the fact that there are so many convenient ways to recycle old cartridges, and cheaper remanufactured cartridge options, still only about 50% of all spent printer cartridges are recycled today - European recycling rates are close to 30% where as in the US, the rate is closer to a paltry 10%.[1] Not only does this represent a waste of resources - plastic, metal, and the like - it can also result in significant environmental damage as the ink and toner can be relatively toxic.

How to choose more eco-friendly cartridge recycling and purchasing options

Thankfully, there are many ways you can green-up your printer cartridges, including buying eco-preferable options and then disposing of spent ones responsibly.

  • Buy refillable cartridges: Many cartridges can actually be re-filled with new toner rather than dismantled for parts. This is a much more energy efficient process that recycling, and contrary to how old remanufactured toner cartridges used to perform, today’s refilled cartridges work very well. So buy remanufactured cartridges to start, and be sure to recycle them to remanufacturing companies so that they can be reused again and again.
  • Find manufacturer inkjet and laser cartridge recycling programs: Check first on the box your new cartridge came in - they often include instructions on where to recycle your spent cartridges, whether locally, through a retailer, or by mailing them in.    Brother,    Dell,    HP, Konica, Lexmark, and    Xerox all have take-back or recycling programs in place.
  • Send empty cartridges in for recycling:If your manufacturer doesn’t recycle cartridges, there are other options. Not only do many office supply stores offer drop-off boxes for spent cartridges, but you may able to be able to send empty inkjet and laser cartridges in to electronics recycling centers. See our    recycling database for a list of resources.

Fair and sustainable e-waste recyclers

As with any e-waste challenge, you’ll want to choose an ethical recycler that promotes safe and fair methods for recycling your electronic waste. The bulk of all e-waste is sent overseas where the components are dismantled (sometimes smashed apart) by people (often children) without proper personal protection making less than 25 cents an hour.[2] Without safe disposal regulations, these countries are often saddled with the toxic burden that comes with electronics recycling. To ensure that you’re not contributing to overseas pollution problems, look for recyclers that use responsible recycling methods.

  • The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an international environmental organization working to reduce toxic manufacturing and disposal. 
  • Alternatively, you can ask any potential recyclers a series of questions to determine whether they use safe and fair e-waste handling methods. Check out E-cycling Central’s list of questions.



1 Printer Remanufacturers Find Low Reuse, Recycling Rates of Cartridges. (2007, July 22). Retrieved June 30, 2010,

2 E-Waste & Recycling Laws - Protecting Taxpayers, our Environment and Public Health while Creating an Incentive for Greener Design. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2010, from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition:

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