Keeping Things Green - Don't Throw Away Printer Cartridges

Published: 03rd August 2009
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There is one thing most of us go through quickly but don't think to recycle and that is our printer cartridges. Sure, many of us are now used to recycling our aluminum cans, plastic bottles and newspapers, but items such as printer cartridges are just as important to have reused.

How does recycling help? Each time an ink cartridge is thrown into a landfill, it can take up to 450 years to decompose. In 2001, 166.2 million ink and toner cartridges were recycled and thus saved from landfills. But still, many ink cartridges are thrown out, it is estimated that approximately more than 300 million cartridges end up in landfills every year--that's almost eight cartridges thrown away in the United States every second. The number of cartridges in landfills also increases by 12 percent each year - so over time, this is a lot of trash sitting around.

How does recycling add up? Just look at these facts:

- About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is just 28%.

- Recycling creates 6 times as many jobs as land filling.

- Recycling one ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

- In recent years, the number of U.S. plastics recycling business has nearly tripled. More than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics.

We also know from studies that recycling helps the earth in that it saves natural resources and animal habitats, reduces the amount of trash produced, generates less air and water pollution, and consumes less energy than using virgin materials.

Fortunately, due to information being given to consumers regarding the amount of trash they produce and the positive effects of recycling, people are making recycling an important part of their life. In 1988, there were 600 curbside recycling programs in the US. Now there are more than 9,340 programs, over 12,000 drop-off centers, and 480 material recovery facilities to process collected materials. In 1991, the US recycling rate was 17%. Now it is estimated at 30% (including composting). With the rise in recycling has followed the rise in recycled products for use. In 1990, the Recycled Products Guide listed 170 items; today, more than 5,000 recycled content products are available.

And what about the energy it takes to create a product like a printer cartridge. Just imagine that if the plastics that make up the cartridge are recycled, how that can help the planet. As odd as it may seem there are many people who do not realize that plastic is made out of oil. This is the same oil that is used to make gasoline. It's also the same oil that is in such high demand and is not an unlimited resource. Plastic is a versatile synthetic material and has integrated itself in human usage over the years. Not only are our ink cartridges made from it, we wrap our food in it, store items in it, drink from it and eat off it, we have parties surrounded by plastic and even wear it; of all this plastic only 3 to 5 percent is recycled in America. Much of the rest of this plastic goes into landfills and takes 200 - 400 years to decompose.

Finding statistics to determine the amount of energy it takes to make a printer cartridge can be tricky, but for water bottles, another large source of plastic, the numbers are amazing. According to the plastics manufacturing industry, it takes around 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one-liter plastic bottle, cap, and packaging. Making enough plastic to bottle 31.2 billion liters of water required more than 106 billion megajoules of energy. Because a barrel of oil contains around 6 thousand megajoules, it is estimated that more than 17 million barrels of oil were needed to produce these plastic bottles.

Recycling in the big picture helps to slow the build-up of greenhouse gases (because it saves energy) and reduces the pollutants that contribute to acid rain.

Whichever choice you make, remember that your ink cartridges shouldn't be thrown away but recycled. Ask if your company has a recycling program for their cartridges? Statistics show that 48 percent of people throw their ink cartridges into the trash - how can you help change that? Do you know where you can take your used ink cartridges? Do some research and let the people around you know what you discovered. You can start by looking up the manufacturer of your ink cartridge as they often have programs through stores in taking such cartridges back.

Last, look into buying ink cartridges that have been recycled or can be refilled. If you don't like the quality of printing they provide, you still can go with the new cartridges, again, just be sure to have a method of recycling them. One small gesture such as recycling your personal ink cartridges will add up to a big gesture for the planet.John Pickering is the owner of, an online retailer of new and refilled printer ink cartridges for Brother, HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark and Xerox printers. Visit online today and begin saving.

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