How to Recycle Printers

An Overview on Recycling Printers

Sure, we may be moving toward a paperless society (though most experts agree that’s still a long way off), but printers are still very much a part of our daily lives. Whether you’re printing out a shopping list, in need of a hard copy of your paper to review, or want actual pictures from your recent vacation, printers are virtually indispensable. And now with the multi-functional printers - all-in-ones that can scan, copy, fax, and print - they’re even more useful for all kinds of jobs.

Paper waste is one of the biggest environmental problems for printers, but that’s not the only eco-concern. All of the usual chemical suspects - brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, cadmium, and lead - can be found in printers. And of course, then there’s the problem of printer cartridges - read more about recycling those in our article about cartridge recycling.

Donating secondhand printers

As you know from your own personal life, printers are incredibly useful devices. As such, functional printers can often come in very handy for charitable organizations that would otherwise not be able to purchase them. So donate your printer to a good cause:

  • Local nonprofits: If you’ve got a favorite charity in your area, ask them if they’d like to receive the donation. In-kind donations like used printers help charities offset operational costs. Just be sure to send the driver installation disks and instruction manual so that they know how to use it.
  • National printer donation programs: There are now several national and international organizations that accept used electronics including printers for recycling. Check out our recycling database for a whole list of potential organizations you can send your used printer to. 

Recycling used printers

Sending your obsolete and broken printers for recycling is the last resort, but still very important. Recovering the materials and ensuring they don’t land up loose in the environment protects human and environmental health and saves resources and energy, too.

  • Manufacturer take-back programs:Just like computers and monitors, many electronics makers including XeroxDellHP, and Canon will now take back their spent products, printers included, which they will either recycle or donate to a worthy cause. The first place to check when looking for a way to recycle your printer is with the manufacturer. The most e-waste we send back, the greater their cost for disposable, which will encourage them to create more durable, easily recyclable products in the future.
  • Local electronic recycling centers:When manufacturer take-back programs fail, look for a local electronic collection site in your area. Often these are set up by your municipal solid waste office, so check there first. Then look into retail drop-off locations and the like. Our recycling database has lists of many of these programs.

Ethical 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.[1] 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 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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