Saving the Planet One Ink Cartridge at a Time

Published: 06th May 2009
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We've all heard and learned the mantra of the environmentally conscious - "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." How many of use actually follow it as closely as we could? What's the first thing that comes to mind when you run out of printer ink? Throw that old thing away and get a new one, right? WRONG!! Throwing an old ink cartridge in the trash is possibly one of the worst things you can do to your dear old Mother Earth. First, those things take up room. And there's a lot of them out there, believe me. Let's not forget that they'll be hanging around a long time, too. Next, those things are made out of some good stuff. I'm talking nonrenewable stuff that once it's gone, it's gone forever. Then there's the energy used to make the things. It takes a lot of electricity to run a factory, if you know what I mean. Lastly, there's the waste of good old fashioned money. Yep, it really does pay to recycle, at least where ink and toner cartridges are concerned.

Only 5 % of empty ink cartridges are recycled in the US and Canada every year. That means that 95% of the ink and toner cartridges used are tossed in the trash. North Americans throw away 300 million ink and toner cartridges each and every year. 300 million cartridges add up to a lot of trash. With the average toner cartridge weighing in at 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, the equivalent of 112,000 Volkswagen Beetles is thrown away each year. To put it another way, it would take 68,000 Ford Explorers to equal the same amount of weight in trashed ink cartridges. Toss your SUV into a landfill lately? 300 million ink cartridges in the landfill means that 8 are tossed each and every second in North America. And with small business and home printer uses rising, the number of expended cartridges is expected to grow by perhaps as much 12% per year. School, big business and government use of ink and toner cartridges is expected to rise at an even higher rate. How much room is left in that landfill with your SUV, anyway?

Let's talk about some of that good stuff I mentioned earlier. Most of an ink cartridge or toner cartridge is made out of plastic. That plastic will last from 450 to 1,000 years in that landfill. Many plastics aren't biodegradable in any way, so in all actuality, that one ink cartridge could, in theory, last forever. That's a long time to be trash! And all that plastic is made of petroleates. That's right. That's oil you're throwing away there. That's oil that if it does somehow degrade will contaminate the ground and water. Not a pretty picture, huh?

Speaking of oil, it can take 3 1/2 quarts (that's almost a gallon) of oil to produce one large toner cartridge. There are several ounces of oil in the smaller inkjet cartridges. Now, multiply that by 300 million and then we'll talk about the coming oil shortage, alright? You can save as much as half a gallon of oil by recycling one toner cartridge alone. If everyone returned their empty laser cartridges every year, a total of over 1 million gallons of oil could be conserved. Now, what would that do for old Mother Earth (and gasoline prices, while we're at it?)

There's a certain amount of metals in cartridges, too. Many of the metallic portions of old ink and toner cartridges can be immediately reused, as is, in new cartridges. No one has done any studies on how much metal this could conserve, but ANY amount, however small, multiplied over millions and millions of cartridges would be certain to have an impact. Not to mention that reusing the parts as is saves the energy used to manufacture new ones.

Recycling and remanufacturing ink and toner cartridges can save the consumer, too. Several companies and retailers offer buy back or rewards programs to encourage cartridge recycling. Many times, a recycled cartridge can resell at 50% of the price of a new one, as reusing is certainly cheaper than making new ones from scratch. Retailers often offer a discount on your next ink cartridge purchase with the return of your old one. Add to all that the fact that many remanufactured /recycled ink cartridges hold more in the reservoir than they did when new, allowing you to get more mileage out of them, and you'll get an even bigger benefit from buying and using recycled cartridges. So, you can put money in your wallet in more than one way! Great way to save some green, and do something green at the same time.

Recycling empty ink and toner cartridges is clearly a great way for your home or business to be more environmentally friendly. And with the great incentive programs and the cheaper costs of recycled cartridges, you'll be doing something budget friendly at the same time. You'll win. Mother Earth will win. When she wins, we all win, right?John Pickering is the owner of an online retailer of new and refilled ink cartridges for Brother, HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark and Xerox printers. Visit us online today for epson inkjet cartridges and more and begin saving.

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