The Wimmera Mail-Times

What's the best method for recycling used printer cartridges?

What's the best method for recycling used printer cartridges?

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Right now the major concern for most Australians is the environment. So concerned are we that, at the last Federal Election, we did something that we have never done before.

We were so disappointed in the environmental policies presented by both major parties that we, as a nation, elected a third group whose focus is on climate action, to toughen up the carbon reduction goals of the new Government and to make sure that they are implemented.

But it's not just governments, industries and large corporations who can reduce our carbon footprint. There are 25 million of us Australians and we can each do our bit, as individuals as well as businesses, to reduce the nation's collective carbon footprint.

One particularly effective solution for minimising your carbon footprint with minimal time and resource commitment is simply recycling used printer ink cartridges. Recycling printer ink cartridges is just as impactful as it is easy, so there's no reason why both business owners and even home printer users shouldn't be taking full advantage of the cartridge recycling methods that are available to them.

But what exactly are these methods, and what's the best method to suit your own printing habits? We'll be outlining all the most effective ways to recycle printer cartridges below so that you can determine the best recycling processes to incorporate into your existing home or office printing set-up.

Participate in cartridge recycling programmes.

Hands down the best method for recycling your used printer cartridges is by participating in specialty cartridge recycling programmes like those offered by organisations advocating for a circular economy. There are a handful of innovative cartridge recycling programmes to choose from, but one that goes highly recommended is a recycling scheme offered by online printer and printer supplies retailer CartridgesDirect.

Managed by lifelong printing industry professional Simon Williams, CartridgesDirect's printer cartridge recycling scheme was developed using over thirty years of Simon's personal experience and industry observations.

Through conducting research and surveying the CartridgesDirect customer base, Simon unearthed a major gap in the cartridge collection process. Whilst there are printer cartridge recycling bins for workplaces and offices to dispose of their ink and toner cartridges efficiently, a large majority of at-home printer users would store depleted printer cartridges in the top drawer of their desk.

They would do so with the intention of gathering up enough cartridges before dropping them off at a nearby dedicated printer cartridge recycling bin. Unfortunately, the survey also discovered that many families would just forget to drop the cartridges off until their pile of depleted cartridges had grown too large to transport easily, leading busy families to drop them straight into their curbside recycling bin, which sadly sends them straight to landfill.

CartridgesDirect's recycling scheme was essentially designed to fill this gap in the collection process, by providing all CartridgesDirect customers with a complimentary mailing bag with each order placed on the website.

This mailing bag can be filled with a minimum of 8 printer ink cartridges and then posted back to CartridgesDirect at no cost to the consumer. Of all the printer cartridge recycling methods we'll be outlining today, CartridgesDirect's recycling scheme is by far the easiest and most cost-effective method for not just busy home printer users and small start-ups or home businesses, but also larger office environments operating today.

In truth, CartridgesDirect's printer cartridge recycling scheme does operate as a direct hit to the retailer's own profit margins, but Simon Williams has asserted that the 'bottom line' was not a concern over ensuring that the organisation plays their role in the ethical disposal of used cartridges.

The CartridgesDirect printer cartridge recycling scheme was also developed in collaboration with Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, and Close The Loop, two organisations that seek to cultivate circular economies across the globe.

Since their recycling scheme was put into effect, CartridgesDirect has collected and recycled upwards of 30,000 cartridges, with an average of 1300-1400 cartridges collected per month.

That's a whopping 30 kg worth of cartridges saved from being sent straight to landfill monthly. This number can easily grow higher, especially considering that an estimated 18 million cartridges are sent straight to landfill in Australia annually.

Drop cartridges off at your local post office or tech store.

Chances are you may already be familiar with Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, as Planet Ark has devoted themselves to recycling printer cartridges for over a decade now. You can actually find specialty Cartridges 4 Planet Ark printer cartridge recycling bins in a wide range of Australian tech retail stores as well as in most AusPost branches.

Business owners may even be able to order their own cartridge recycling bin for their office spaces, ensuring that their organisation can play their part in the printing industry's budding circular economy.

Although making use of Cartridges 4 Planet Ark bins has been a favourite method amongst many business owners in the past, there's no denying that this method does have its fair share of setbacks, the majority of which were felt over months of lockdowns.

As offices and shopping centres closed across the country, consumers and business owners had limited opportunities to ethically dispose of their depleted printer cartridges, which saw an influx in the number of cartridges that went straight to landfill.

If you or your business does find itself in a position where it doesn't have access to cartridge recycling services like physical drop-off points, having a few of CartridgesDirect's mailing bags handy may help fill in the gaps in your own printer cartridge recycling processes. The convenience of the CartridgesDirect mailing bags may also be beneficial for busy households or schools who find themselves printing regularly.

Refill used printer ink cartridges

A highly popular method of cartridge recycling that doesn't involve participating in recycling programmes and buying new cartridges, is simply having your depleted cartridges refilled with fresh printer ink. Be aware, however, that there are an assortment of businesses across Australia that offer cartridge refilling services, and not all of them use the same refilling practices.

Generally speaking, most methods for refilling printer cartridges demand the removal and replacement of small cartridge parts, like plastic clipping which secure inks when placed in your printer, or microchip technology that's used by your printer to accurately measure the ink levels in your ink cartridge. Your refilling service may decide to recycle these removed and replaced parts ethically, or they could be putting them straight into landfill.

It's a good rule of thumb to ask your selected refilling service just how they dispose of replaced and removed parts. If the reusable parts are sent straight to landfill, then it may be worth finding a different refilling service or opting for another printer cartridge recycling method.

Alongside these unsustainable practices, refilling printer ink cartridges also pose some potential problems for printer users, as careless handling of the depleted cartridges can lead to printers failing to recognise the refilled cartridges. With this in mind, refilling printer ink cartridges may end up being far more wasteful than you may have initially thought.

Can cartridges be recycled in a roadside recycling bin?

Unfortunately, virtually all Victorian council recycling services lack the infrastructure to adequately recycle used printer cartridges, as their specialty build and components require expert resource management methods. As a result, printer cartridges that are disposed of in your roadside recycling bin are sent straight to your local landfill.

This is why Cartridges 4 Planet Ark set up their local cartridge recycling bins at Australia Post and continue to offer schools and corporations the chance to set up their own specialty cartridge bins.

Why shouldn't you toss out used printer cartridges?

Not only will recycling used printer cartridges save around 5 tonnes of "waste" from going to Aussie landfills every year, but there are also a myriad of materials and technological components used in the production of printer cartridges that can actually limit resource consumption across a range of other industries.

Recycled printer cartridges have been used to produce a wide array of goods like office stationery, printers, and other everyday equipment, and even civil infrastructure like roads and bridges. In essence, recycling printer cartridges should be considered a foundational element of establishing our own circular economy, both here in the offices and households of Melbourne as well as across Australia.


As one of the globe's largest producers and exporters of energy and natural resources, Australians have the opportunity to set an environmentally conscious example on a global scale. Adopting printer cartridge recycling as an everyday practice will help us realise this potential, and position us to be pioneers of the circular economy, a construct which is poised to be a fixture of virtually all future industries.

Whether you manage a household or a business, you can take measures to recycle your printer cartridges responsibly by visiting the CartridgesDirect website and finding your own local Cartridges 4 Planet Ark bins today.