If you own a printer, from time to time you'll run out of ink.

Instead of throwing the cartridge out, see if there are any services in your area for toner cartridge recycling - services are available in most areas nowadays.

Recycling toner cartridges isn't something you do every day, but it's important!

By recycling, you'll probably save yourself some money on your new toner cartridge, you'll avoid adding a heap of concentrated toxins into landfill, and you'll avoid the emissions and waste by-products required for manufacturing a new cartridge.

Why Recycle Printer Toner Cartridges?

Where To Go?

Many printer retailers will offer their own scheme of discounts to people with old cartridges, then they'll get the printer cartridges remanufactured.

Some companies will offer a straight buy-back scheme - where you can drop your used toner cartridge into the shop and they'll give you cash.

If your retailer or manufacturer doesn't have a toner cartridge recycling scheme, you can still recycle through other-brand or generic local printer shops. They'll often accept most brands of cartridge, clean them up and refill the ink, then on-sell them.

Price - Buying a High Yield Toner Cartridge

Because it saves you money, recycling toner cartridges is generally a no-brainer.

There is a cost however. You'll need to spend a little more upfront to buy a high yield toner cartridge - one that is going to survive being refilled and cleaned over and again.

Cheap toner is available, so forking out a little more to begin with is a decision that requires weighing up the short term cost with long term monetary and environmental benefits.

Tips for Toner Cartridge Recycling


When it's time to upgrade your computer, it's important to take a little effort to find a good computer disposal and recycling service.

Many areas will have a national computer recyling day, sometimes also called an E-day, where people can drop off old computers and peripehrals for recycling. The old computers are then picked up by a local computer recycler and disposed of appropriately.

The computers can be taken apart and many parts can be used in other systems, or sent on to a specialized computer recyling service center to be broken down and reconstitued.

Why bother with Proper Computer Disposal & Recycling?

Computers contain a myriad of chemicals and toxins, which, if not recycled, generally end up in landfill. Once in landfill, these chemicals leach into the soil and have the potential to contaminate nearby land, vegetation, and waterways.

Some of the common toxic chemicals found in computers and computer parts include high levels of heavy metals such as lead (mainly in CRT monitor glass), mercury, phosphorus, and beryllium.

What can be recycled?

You'll need to check with your local computer recycling service, but below is a list of equipment that most will accept and dispose of appropriately.

Tips for Computer Recycling

The easiest way to go is to keep your ears open for local computer disposal events where you can bring your e-waste to a certain location and a recycling service will take it off your hands.

If you're concerned about just how eco friendly or trustworthy the recycler is, do a little due dilligence:

Like anyone, I hate being told what to do. The intention of this article is not to guilt you, but to take a look at the current and historical recycling situation.

Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle discusses a window factory built during the industrial revolution. Forrest surrounded the factory at first, and was progressively cut down to make window frames.

They discuss the logical mindset of the time, that “factories situated themselves near natural resources for easy access and beside bodies of water, which they used both for manufacturing processes and to dispose of wastes.”

They describe the era when “resources seemed immeasurably vast. Nature itself was perceived as a ‘mother earth’ who, perpetually regenerative, would absorb all things and continue to grow.”

So why recycle today?

Since the industrial revolution, understanding of our interactions with the earth has grown immeasurably – particularly regarding carbon emissions, contamination, and natural resources.

Contemporary societies know that the earth’s resources are limited and that using the earth's resources is a balancing act - using what's needed but being frugal.

Below I'll look at the three main reasons to recycle; reducing landfill, preserving natural resources, and avoiding green house gas emissions.

Recycling and Landfill

Digging holes in the ground and filling them with rubbish isn’t sustainable or eco-friendly, particularly in a world of increased consumption, increased packaging, and a growing population.

As well as making the immediate landfill area unuseable, landfill waste produces methane gas (a green house gas), and can contaminate nearby soil and waterways through toxic leachate.

How long do different products take to breakdown in landfill?

Styrofoam                   1 million years

Aluminium can            200-500 years

Disposable Diaper       550 years

Paper bag                    1 month

Banana peel                 3-4 weeks


Recycling and Preserving Resources

Recycling helps to preserve precious and often limited raw materials.

The simplist example is recycling paper, which avoids the need to cut down another tree, or another forest of trees.

Wood products are a particularly good example to highlight the value of such raw materials. Trees are our best weapon against carbon in the atmosphere, but to take advantage of their ability to consume carbon and produce oxygen, they need to be alive.

A recent UN research paper estimates that each person uses 50kg of paper per year.

Reducing Carbon Emissions from extraction and manufacture

The process of extracting raw materials, refining, and manufacturing useable materials is very energy intensive – which creates green house gases and waste by-products.

Aluminium cans highlight the prudent potential of recycling.

For every ton of aluminium mined, a further four tons of bauxite is mined.

Mining five tons to get one ton is environmentally abusive not only in terms of the waste by-product, but it requires enormous energy resources for the extraction and refinement processes.

Each step of the way produces by-products and uses enormous resources, from the four tons of bauxite waste, the electricity used to heat the aluminium smelt, the emissions created by extraction, bauxite-grinding, and transporting five tons of material for one ton of product.

This entire process is extremely energy intensive and can be avoided by recycling previously-mined aluminium.

Zero Waste New Zealand estimates that recycling aluminium cans results in an overall energy saving of 70% [2].

Where are we with recycling?

Gaining a clear and conclusive picture of world recycling efforts is difficult. Although recycling has been an issue for a long time, concerted recycling initiatives are still in their relative infancy. As a result, consistent data is difficult to compile.

An OECD report shows that between 1980 and 2005, municipal waste generation increased by 62%. Contributing factors of the increase include increased use of packaging materials and disposable goods. [5]

In countries included in the report, approximately 18% of waste was recycled during the mid 90’s. By 2005, approximately 30% was recycled or composted. [5]

Over the past decade, many governments have stepped up recycling programmes, including public information campaigns, drop-off recycling centers, and door-to-door recycling collection.

One such country is New Zealand. In 2006, 73% of the population had access to kerbside recycling, compared to 20% in 1996 [3].

In that same time period, recycling of packaging-waste in New Zealand went from around 43kg per person per year to 85kg per person [3].

Summing up – why recycle?

Recycling is an important piece of the puzzle for tackling the degradation of the earth’s ecosystems.

Global warming, limited natural resources, and contaminated eco systems are very real issues that need to be balanced in this generation to avoid a legacy of resourcelessness and contamination for the next generation.

Article References

[1] Missouri Department of Transportation. (2011). Litter facts and research. No More Trash Online. Retrieved from http://extra.mdc.mo.gov/nomoretrash/facts/

[2] Zero Waste New Zealand. (2008). Climate change, sustainability, and waste. Zero Waste New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.zerowaste.co.nz/what-can-you-do/climate-change-sustainability-and-waste/

[3] Statistics New Zealand. (2009). Measuring New Zealand’s progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

[4] Braungart, M., & McDonough, W. (2009). Cradle to cradle: Re-making the way we make things. London: Vintage.

[5] OECD. (2011). Waste generation, recycling and prevention. Greening Household Behavior. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/environment/greening-household-behaviour/waste-generation-recycling-and-prevention_9789264096875-7-en

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