Is it economical and environmentally friendly for me to recycle my empty inkjet printer

Is it economical and environmentally friendly for me to recycle my empty inkjet printer cartridges instead of buying new ones?

—Matt Hoffman, Seattle, WA

Analysts estimate that more than 300 million inkjet printer cartridges find their way into American landfills every year. Each of those new cartridges requires about three quarts of oil and other raw materials to produce, and also contributes its fair share of greenhouse gases during manufacturing. And as anyone who has ever bought one knows, they come packaged in such excessive amounts of cardboard and plastic that it often takes several minutes and a pair of strong scissors to break through to even get to the ink cartridge!

Thus any effort to reuse or recycle these items is a big win for the environment. And given the exorbitant prices of new inkjet cartridges—the real profit center for printer manufacturers—it makes economic sense, too, for consumers who just want to save money.

The good news is that Americans are already recycling more than 40,000 tons of inkjet cartridges each year. Hundreds of companies out there are eager to pay for your used cartridges so they can re-ink them and resell them at prices much lower than for new ones.

We Buy Empties, and the eCycle Group, among others, take back major brand inkjet printer cartridges and pay for the privilege, even reimbursing shipping costs. These companies usually only accept large quantities (like 100 or more) of spent cartridges, paying between 10 cents and $5 each, depending on the cartridge type. Meanwhile, Staples, Office Depot and Office Max each give customers about $3 in store credit, or in some cases a ream of office paper, for each empty cartridge that is returned.

Meanwhile, most of the major inkjet printer manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Canon and Lexmark, will gladly take back empty cartridges shipped directly to them in their original boxes. Hewlett-Packard even puts pre-paid return shipping labels inside their boxes to facilitate customer recycling of their used inkjet cartridges.

Several such companies offer special buy-back rates for schools, churches and other non-profits, which can solicit and collect used cartridges from members and businesses to raise money. Interested organizations can contact companies like iRethink and Funding Factory, which both have special programs to facilitate collection and reimbursement for spent inkjet cartridges.

Those who don’t mind getting their hands a little messy can re-ink their empty cartridges themselves. Squeeze bottle ink refills are the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way to keep on printing. Inkjetman, which sells its own refilled inkjet cartridges, also sells inkjet refill kits, which will last through thousands of pages, for about the price of a single new cartridge. FillJet sells similar kits, and estimates the cost of a refilled cartridge to be about $2 in ink, which represents a savings of at least 80 percent over buying refilled recycled cartridges from them.

CONTACTS: iRethink,, Funding Factory,, We Buy Empties,,,, The eCycle Group,, Inkjetman,, FillJet,