In a world where many fears the earth is heating up, too many carbon footprints are being left, and waste is at an all-time high, many people are seeking ways to be greener in their daily life. It is rather easy to recycle soda cans, walk instead of drive or hang clothes to dry instead of expending energy on a dryer. But what about printing? We all have to do it at home and at work. Sure, many of our offices have recycling bins and paperless programs to help be earth-conscious. Ink toner should be no exception to your home/office's efforts to help the planet.

Which Are the Best Choices for Green Printing?

You have two good choices when it comes to being green in your printing. You can purchase re-manufactured ink and toner cartridges, or you can buy soy ink toners. Some companies are considered eco-friendlier than others in their manufacturing.

The Skinny on Soy Cartridges

First of all, soy toner cartridges are sometimes built from recycled cartridges, like the ones at InkPal.com. Soy ink is much more environmentally friendly to produce than traditional ink, which is made from petroleum by-products. Aside from that, it takes one gallon of oil to make each new toner cartridge, says ecyclegroup.com. On the other hand, soy ink comes from the byproduct of processing soybeans, thereby making use of the waste that normally would have been discarded. Thus, by printing with soy ink, virtually all waste from printing is eliminated, and the cartridge can be recycled.

But What About Remanufactured Cartridges?

Soy ink is a wonderful option, but it is expensive, especially if you are a small business. Remanufactured ink cartridges give you the comfort of knowing you are at least re-using a product instead of buying new, thereby adding to the problems that come with production of new non-soy cartridges. Even more convenient is the knowledge that you can purchase these inks at well-known stores like Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max or online with the click of a mouse. Plus, for that who are keen on saving a few dollars (and who isn’t?) remanufactured cartridges cost 20%-40% less than those produced brand new, says WasteManagement.com.

I Want to Recycle-But Where?

Please do recycle your cartridges! According to earth911.com, 500 million printer cartridges are sold each year in the United States alone, and 350 million of them are sent to landfills. They take 450 years to decompose, says ecyclegroup.com. You can use Earth911.com to find a location near you where recycling can take place. You can also go to your local Staples, Office Max, or Office Depot to recycle. They all have rewards programs you can use to your advantage. For example, Staples grants you $2 in rewards when you recycle your ink cartridges AND spend at least $30 in ink or toner. If you would like to donate your cartridges to a good cause, Cartridges for Kids collects cartridges and other electronics and turns them into cash.
Hewlett-Packard has a wonderful closed-loop recycling program that uses the plastic from original HP cartridges as well as recycled plastics such as bottles and hangers to create brand new cartridges. So, if you must buy new, consider HP as a green alternative. Even better, HP offers in-store recycling boxes where you can drop off your old cartridges or postage-paid shipping labels so that you can mail it back. If you have lots to recycle, you can arrange for a pallet pickup as well. It is truly easier than ever to recycle old cartridges. Yikes! We Are Too Busy! Can You Come Get our Cartridges?

As a matter of fact, yes! Waste Management offers boxes you can order and fill right from their website wmlamptracker.com. You then print out a pre-paid shipping label. Next, the boxes can be picked up from your office’s mailroom or shipping/receiving. You also can get a 5% discount on your purchase of ink and toner when you buy remanufactured cartridges through Amazon.com/printclub. Use the code WMSAVING as you check out for the discount.

E-cycle is another method you can use. They accept your old cartridges and pay you for the recycled goods. You will want to check their price list, which is on their site (ecyclegroup.com) to verify that your recyclables will be accepted. You can mail them back, which is great for those short on time. I Want A Refill! Perhaps you would just like to reuse your old cartridge yourself and just refill it. You absolutely can do this- it just requires you to follow some steps to ensure a safe and successful refill. Plus, you keep that cartridge away from the landfill. Bear in mind you can only refill the cartridge two or three times before it is time to recycle it. In order to refill your cartridge, you will do the following:

  1. Pick up a printer cartridge refill kit at your favorite retailer.
  2. Wear gloves to make sure your hands stay clean.
  3. Take out your empty cartridge and locate the two refill holes or toner port (these are sometimes found under the label).
  4. Follow the kit’s instructions exactly to ensure proper refill.
  5. Reseal the cartridge after fill is complete.
  6. Clean the syringe after its use. For a more detailed set of instructions including photos, please see WikiHow's "How to Refill an Inkjet Printer Cartridge": https://www.wikihow.com/Refill-an-Inkjet-Printer-Cartridge In closing, you can easily “green” the way you print by paying attention to the brands you purchase, as well as the types of ink and cartridges you consider. You have several options to recycle your old ink cartridges, and they are easy to begin using. You don’t even have to leave your office to make sure you are doing the right thing with your used ink cartridges. Furthermore, you can cut the middleman out of the process by refilling the cartridges by yourself using a kit and steps available online. No matter how you do it, the earth will thank you for it.