These days, printers are everywhere. The cost of printers has dropped so much in recent years that major manufacturers of inkjet printers now charge less for the actual printer than the ink cartridges! It’s crazy to think that just several decades ago, printers were considered something of a luxury item for home computer owners.

One of the biggest problems we have is throwing away the empty printer cartridges. It doesn’t matter whether they are official cartridges or refills from a third party – when they’re empty, most people simply throw them in the regular waste bin and forget about them.

What About Ink Cartridge Recycling?

Did you know that thousands of tons of plastic waste could be saved from landfills every year if ink cartridges were recycled? In fact, 40,000 tons of plastic from empty ink cartridges alone end up in landfill sites each and every year. That is a huge amount of plastic pollution in the environment every year.

Empty inkjet cartridges are not completely empty in most cases. Many of them still contain ink and residues of ink as well as toxic chemicals. All of this ends up in a landfill and leeches into the subsoil. It can get into water tables and local waterways. It can end up being ingested by animals and then by us in the food chain.

The good news is that there is some hope. With the massive amount of empty ink and toner cartridges, many in-store cartridge recycling programs have popped up to fill the gap in the market.

For example, companies like the Ecycle group actually pay money to you when you’ve supplied them with a certain number of empty cartridges. They offer a program of recycling where you can actually collect empties and send them in. They even provide a shipping label to make the whole process a lot easier.

How to Recycle Ink Cartridges

Cartridge recycling is important for our environment, but the truth is that most people don’t actually know where to recycle ink cartridges. Fortunately, if you want to recycle printer ink cartridges, there are some things you can do:

Contact a Retailer

These days, recycling ink cartridges has been made a lot easier because many retailers now participate in a recycling program. Such companies will take your empty cartridges and then place them into a special recycling bin. This will then be sent to a specialist office product recycler who can deal with them.

Some other companies also offer store credit when a certain number of cartridges per month have been sent in for recycling. This provides an incentive for customers to collect their empty cartridges and take them in to be recycled. In this way, incentivizing recycling creates environmentally friendly behavior.

Contact a Specialist Recycler

Many other companies run reward programs. These specialist recyclers will often pay cash for empty cartridges. They may on-sell them to other recyclers who then use them to create other products for sale. In this way, less plastic waste enters landfills and the environment.

Who would have thought that you could sell empty ink cartridges for money? This is truly where the drive of capitalism and the necessity of environmental programs meet in the middle and create an innovative way to deal with a big problem.

Refill Your Cartridges

If you want to reuse your cartridges for more printing, you can also refill them. An office supply store will usually also sell third-party inks that can be used to refill official products from HP, Epson, Brother, and other big names in the printing world.

Here’s how you can refill your empty cartridges by yourself:

  • Make sure you have a refill product from your local retailer
  • Protect your hands by putting on latex rubber gloves before you begin the process of refilling
  • Find the refill ports or holes on your official printer cartridge
  • Refill it carefully by following the instructions in the refill product
  • Make sure you reseal the cartridge and cover the refill ports
  • Wash out and clean the refilling syringe before using it again for another ink color

Refilling your official printer cartridges using one of many available third-party refill products is a fantastic way of keeping the empties out of landfills and out of the environment. It also means that you get more use out of your cartridges.

More Creative Ways to Recycle

As good as the recycling programs are, there are also a number of other innovative ways to recycle your empty cartridges. Despite the fact that your cartridge might be useless for printing, it does have many other uses. Here are some really interesting ways to recycle HP ink cartridges and others:

Use Them as Toys

This might seem a little odd, but to a young child, everything in their environment is a potential toy. If you take your empty inkjets cartridges, you can paint them up and use them as little toys for young kids.

Take those old and useless cartridges and paint them in vibrant colors. Paint patterns and designs on them. Kids will immediately be drawn to them and want to touch and play with them. Just make sure that you clean and wash them out thoroughly, otherwise, you could end up with a child covered in ink residue!

Recycle Them for Use as Other Products

This is where there’s massive growth and where much research and good work is being done. Ink cartridges can be recycled into use as other products and materials.

The problem is that plastic does not break down quickly or easily. Even when it breaks down into smaller pieces, this microplastic ends up entering the environment. It pollutes the oceans, the soil, and our waterways, as well as our food chain.

One innovative way to deal with the problem is to recycle empty cartridges into other plastic products. These products can be sold again and money can be made by innovative companies. In this way, recycling programs have an incentive to buy your empty ink cartridges and then sell them to another company for this kind of recycling and remodeling.

One other interesting use for recycled plastic is in the construction of roads, bikeways, and pathways in urban environments. The plastic is tough enough that it can form a very durable surface for traffic, and will be long-lasting.

Activate Your Inner Artist

It may not be for everyone, but some people have found innovative ways to use empty cartridges in art installations, sculptures, and even into lampshades. The reality is that plastic ink cartridges can be used in all sorts of ways if there’s enough motivation.


It’s vitally important for all of us to do more to recycle ink cartridges that are empty and no longer in use. Whether we refill them ourselves using a third-party refill product, take them to a local retailer or specialist recycler, or use them as art or painted children’s toys, we need to take responsibility for what happens to them. It’s simply not good enough that they end up being discarded in landfills and poison our environment.

Fortunately, there are some fantastic recycling programs being run by companies and participating retailers that make it a lot easier to keep them out of landfills and our environment.