Or, how to reuse your ink cartridges without getting dirty
It’s amazing how many people still don’t recycle. I mean seriously, how difficult is it to separate out your plastic, aluminium, and paper from everyday waste? It’s not a messy or dirty task; all you have to do is place it in a different bin for someone else to whisk away. Plus you get to feel good about saving planetary resources at the same time. Who doesn’t like to feel good about everyday things in life?
Sadly, the answer to that is too many people.
If, however, you are someone who does know the difference between ‘recycle’ and ‘chuck-it-in-a-landfill-to-destroy-the-environment’, you may find, like me, that it’s still difficult to be recycling conscious of everything. Take printer cartridges, for example. I’ve been doing a lot of printing recently. Turning over the pages manually helps save paper, but what to do when your ink runs out? (Apart from loudly venting your annoyance, of course.)
- Throw away the cartridge, rush to the shops, and buy a new one for an exorbitant price because you just need to keep printing, right now.
- Keep hold of your cartridge, rush to the cartridge shop, and swap it for a reduced price refilled one because you just need to keep printing, right now.
- Keep hold of your cartridge, rush to the cartridge shop, and wait whilst they refill and clean it for you, for less than the cost of buying a new one. Then rush home to keep printing.
- Rush to wherever it is you store your new cartridges, install one, and sigh with relief as you keep printing. Then take your old cartridge along to a recycling point at your leisure.
- Rush online to order a new cartridge, preferably at a ridiculously low price from Asia, then wait by the mailbox for two weeks until delivery, then rush off to continue printing. Forget about the old cartridge in the meantime.
- Cry. Because you really wanted that [insert here] and have no means to do it.
My first reaction upon ink running out was number 1, quickly followed by number 6. And a lot of loud venting of annoyance at the houseplant. Given a few moments to breathe, however, and I turned to number 4. I really don’t like paying a lot of money for things that you can buy So Cheaply online. And my print job could wait a bit, honestly.
Wait a minute. Where do these Mega Cheap cartridges come from? How much oil and power and carbon emissions are used to produce them? Who is benefiting? Is it really worth the extra cents to produce another new cartridge when there are other means out there of producing my essential printing item? Shouldn’t my recycling poster/Justin Bieber pinup be made with green ink, not dirty black? (I’m sure even JB would prefer that. Maybe.)
- It’s estimated that over 80% of used cartridges go straight to landfill.
- Australians throw away more than 18 million printer cartridges per year.
- Printer cartridges are made up of a complex combination of plastics, metals, foam, ink and toner. Throwing them away represents a waste of resources and contributes to the growing problem of electronic waste.
- Material resources, water and energy (and therefore carbon emissions) are used to manufacture new printer cartridges. Metals mined from the earth’s crust, plastics derived from petroleum. These resources are finite – there are limited amounts of them that can be extracted. The plastic in each new laser toner cartridge takes three and a half quarts (approx. 15.91 litres) of oil to produce, while each new inkjet cartridge requires 70 ml of oil.
- Some kinds of toner dust contain hazardous materials. Inkjet inks can also contain a range of chemicals that are harmful to the environment. These materials pose no threat while they are contained within the cartridge. But they can escape when cartridges are pulled apart in poorly managed refilling or recycling operations or when dumped cartridges start to deteriorate in landfill. Toner dust is also extremely fine (5 – 15 microns), so it can easily leach from landfill into nearby waterways, ground water and ultimately the oceans.
- Landfill is not a long term solution – it just leaves the problem for future generations to deal with. Some cartridges can leak toner dust and residue ink in landfill, contributing to pollution. The plastics and metals are not readily biodegradable – a laser cartridge (more than 90% of cartridges thrown away are this type) can take up to 450 years to decompose in landfill. That’s long enough to forget who even Justin Bieber is.
Reuse or recycle your cartridges. Reduce waste, save water and energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make better use of our resources.
If you’d rather have new ink, but want to recycle, you can drop off your cartridges at a recycling point. Now that sounds like effort… But it’s not, honestly. The Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program has recycled over 18 million printer cartridges so far, and is aiming to reach 20 million by 2013. You can drop your cartridges into all Officeworks and JB Hi-Fi stores, and at participating Australia Post, Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, Tandy and The Good Guys outlets. Pretty convenient.
But if you want to get your hands dirty..
Well, that’s OK too. Why not get an ink cartridge refill kit? Do it yourself, kind of thing. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Sometimes these things are best left to the professionals.
My houseplant can attest to that.