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Recycle Your Printer Cartridges or Buy Recycled

By Brenda Shaw

Recycling cartridges can help the environment, save money and maybe benefit charities

It is quite likely that, at home or in an organisation, you have been a party to, or witnessed the casual discarding of inkjet and toner cartridges which eventually add to the amount going into land-fill. It doesn't have to be that way, there are ample opportunities to get them recycled.

Make no mistake, recycling printer cartridges is big business. A major part of the process is collecting the used items and gathering sufficient quantities so that they can be taken to specialist recyclers. Good firms should be able to renovate them to a high standard, sometimes with a performance better than new. If you can get your cartridges to a collector, there is a good chance that part of the deal will be that one or more charities will benefit. In some cases you can receive payment yourself. Many supermarkets now have cartridge recycling boxes in-store.

The other side of this picture is buying recycled cartridges. We're pretty sure that original equipment manufacturers must make fortunes from supplying media, especially for inkjets. Witness the low price of printers and the frequency with which the cartridges run out, especially with a multi-colour device which may have lots of ink still left when only one colour is exhausted.

Be careful when buying recycled cartridges especially if you use an inkjet style printer to produce photographs. Colour control is vital to realistic and pleasing prints and this depends on complex matching throughout from camera to final print; the exact colour of the inks are a key factor. Beyond that, fade resistance is very important and something which you might only notice several months after printing. The solution is only to buy from a reputable supplier who can accurately specify the products and guarantee the quality. Then there's another worry; will the recycled cartridge damage the printer? The OEMs often imply that it will, but they would wouldn't they? Look for an appropriate guarantee from any independent supplier on that score too.

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Red , Red Rose Bee on an Iris
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Note that many organisations recycle both printer cartridges and mobile phones so if you want to see more possibilities have a look at the mobile phone page too.

Printer toner cartridges contain very fine particulated powder which, although the constituents may not be toxic, can present a minor hazard.

In the EU, hundreds of million cartridges are discarded each year and the number will surely increase. Since July 2005 empty cartridges have been reclassified as Hazardous Waste. For information on firms who collect, recycle or sell toner and other recycled cartridges see below:


Age UK run toner & inkjet cartridge and mobile phone collection and recycling services, which bring revenue to the charity. They also collect collect foreign currency, recycle household goods, clothes etc.

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Against Breast Cancer (ABC) collect old mobile phones and inkjet and laser cartridges to recycle and raise funds for their research projects into breast cancer, diet, lifestyle and natural immunity. They can provide Freepost poly bags, or boxes for larger numbers; visit their web site for details.
    The British Institute for Brain Injured Children recycles inkjet and laser jet toner cartridges from computers and fax machines and mobile phones (even broken ones) and say these can make a real difference to children with severe learning difficulties.
    Cartridges4charity, a UK project designed to help the environment and raise funds for charities through printer cartridge and mobile phone recycling.
    The Cartridge Family sell OEM, compatible and recycled Inkjet & Laser cartridges compatible with some 2000 printers, fax film, ribbons, paper and printers to authorities, corporates, schools and home users anywhere in the UK. They give cash-back on empties as discount against purchase.
    Cartridge Shop sell compatible and remanufactured Inkjet Cartridges which are considerably cheaper than OEM products but of equal quality.
    Citrus Computers (also called inkjet4u) sell remanufactured HP Cartridges as well as Universal Ink Refills (compatible with approx 300 popular cartridges).
    Clover Environmental Solutions works with charities, schools, hospices, and fundraisers to generate much needed funds through printer cartridge and mobile phone recycling, providing collection programmes for used laser toner and inkjet cartridges, mobile phones and small electronic devices.
    Emptycartridge pay you cash for cartridges you send to them or you can help raise funds for your school, favourite charity or company. They are suppliers to the re-manufacturers of Laser & Inkjet printer cartridges.
Photo of Church by Martin Sletcher
Photo by Martin Sletcher
  Greensource Solutions collect empty printer cartridges, unwanted mobile phones, PDAs, Laptops and handheld electronics; they raise funds for a number of chosen charities.
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  Hewlett Packard provide a recycling service for their cartridges. Simply pack the old cartridge in the bag and box that the new one comes in and attach the prepaid return label. This is a good environmental example from HP.
    International Technology Products (UK) Ltd claim to be Europe's largest empty cartridge dealer. If you have cartridges that you want to donate to charity, or to sell, or cartridges that you need to buy, wherever you are in the world, I.T.P. say they can help.
    Kyocera claim to be the leader in environmentally responsible office printing and offer a returns service for all used, genuine KYOCERA toner cassettes and waste toner bottles.
    Leukaemia CARE provides vital care and support to all those whose lives are affected by leukaemia, lymphoma and the allied blood disorders. Their work includes the welfare of families and carers, as well as patients. For info on donations including stamps, mobiles and cartridges, go to their web site.
    Money To Schools, created by K2 Supplies (see above) helps schools in the UK with their fundraising activities where the school can earn cash by collecting used laser and inkjet printer cartridges and mobiles phones.
New Leaf Recycling, based in south London, offers recycling schemes for printer cartridges, redundant IT equipment and waste paper; they sell remanufactured laser printer and inkjet cartridges.
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Office Green recycle used or unwanted printer cartridges, mobile phones, fluorescent lighting and computer equipment. They collect for free and pay for printer cartridges and mobile phones, or you can donate to charity.
Also, Office Green and the National Trust are working in partnership to offer a recycling service covering toner and inkjet printer cartridges and mobile phones with all funds generated going directly to the National Trust.
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Proprint sell remanufactured inkjet cartridges for Hewlett Packard, Canon, Lexmark. They give 1 discount voucher for any print cartridge returned.
Reclaim-it is dedicated to safe collection of mobile phones and printer (inkjet and toner) cartridges throughout the UK. They work with many companies, charities and Not For Profit organisations to arrange safe collection and generate much needed funding.
Recycle 4 Charity is a fundraising tool for charities and nfp groups run by BCMY ltd. They recycle Inkjet Cartridges and Mobiles; they provide all the free promotional material, advice and information you need in order to raise funds for the charity, school, club or community group of your choice.
RecycleAid recycles printer cartridges and old mobile phones to raise money and help the environment, aiming to save as many cartridges and mobile phones as possible from landfill. If you send your cartridges or mobiles to them they will make a donation to a charity of your choice.
Recycle Ink Cartridges provides a free recycling service for businesses, schools & colleges in the UK, recycling laser toner and inkjet cartridges and ink from most leading manufacturers. They can donate to the 'When you wish upon a star' charity or you could raise money for your school/ college.
Recycling Appeal collects mobile phones, PDAs and printer cartridges for reuse and recycling, raising funds and helping the environment and is closely associated with many charities. They also help you set up your own appeal.
    Redeem claim to be international leaders in the collection and recycling of used inkjet and toner printer cartridges, mobile phones and accessories. They support schools, youth groups and national charities. Any organisation can start a recycling scheme today to raise money for local community fund-raising. The company help all these groups to make money through recycling.
    Ricoh UK have launched four key recycling initiatives as part of their commitment to environmental conservation: Toner Cartridge, Overhead Projector Cartridge, Cardboard and Toner Bottle recycling. Look under Environment on their site. They also work with the CarbonNeutral Company.
    The UK Cartridge Recyclers Association (UKCRA) set standards for cartridge remanufacture, aiming to provide printer users with high quality, cost effective, environmentally friendly alternatives to imported cartridges.

WasteOnline (Waste Watch) provide information about recycling of cartridges, refillable and remanufactured cartridges and ink refills.

Photo of sheep grazing by Martin Sletcher
Grazing Sheep, © Martin

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) UK has a recycling scheme, the Recycling Factory for individuals and organisations, where you can raise funds for cancer prevention by giving them your old mobile phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, sat navs and printer cartridges.

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