Used printer cartridges are among the most environmentally damaging things that people regularly throw away. If a printer cartridge goes in the trash, it will spend the next 500 to 1000 years in a landfill or in the open ocean. The ink or toner stored in used printer cartridges leaches into the soil or water, which can poison the environment for centuries to come.
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1. Mail Cartridges Back to the Manufacturer for Rebates
Many ink cartridge makers such as Lexmark, HP, Dell, and Epson include a special envelope for this purpose inside the package. It is easy to keep this envelope until the cartridge's life has expired, seal the used plastic shell inside, and mail it back to the manufacturer. Upon receipt of your recycled cartridge, most companies will offer rebates in the range of 5-10% off your next cartridge purchase. Additionally, most will pay for postage costs.
For larger ink or toner cartridges, you may not receive an envelope with your purchase. However, if you take the initiative and find a box or envelope yourself, you are likely to receive a far more attractive rebate. Some laser toner cartridges can be very expensive, and a 30% rebate can result in significant savings on your next purchase.
2. Donate to Charity or Non-Profit Organizations
Many charity and non-profit groups all over the country accept donations of used ink cartridges. You can donate to a local group, or you can mail your cartridge to a national group whose work you support. These groups often have deals with manufacturers to receive cash donations in exchange for recycled cartridges.
You may be able to write this off as a charitable donation on your taxes. Carefully review your chosen charity's policies for printer cartridge donations.
3. Sell Used Cartridges for Cash
If you'd like some extra cash in your pocket, some organizations will write you a check for your used printer cartridges. Many of these companies are geared toward businesses that tend to use a high volume of ink and toner cartridges, and often require you to send a minimum number of cartridges. However, you can save up cartridges by keeping a box in the basement or in a corner of your office. Then when you have enough used cartridges, you can send them off. The amount you receive per cartridge varies depending on the group you use.
4. Take Cartridges to Office Supply Stores
If you just want a hassle-free way to get rid of your used cartridges without worrying about centuries of environmental degradation, you can take these cartridges to your local office supply store. Office Depot, Staples and other such businesses will often take your cartridges for free. Simply take your used plastic shells to the store, drop them in the marked recycling bin and go about your daily business. If there is no clearly marked location, you may need to ask where you can leave your used printer cartridges at customer service.
While this option is neither the most lucrative nor the most charity-beneficial, it is a convenient way to care for the environment. Simply store your used cartridges until you need to buy office supplies. You don't need to add any extra tasks to your busy schedule.
5. Set Up Neighborhood or Office Cartridge Recycling Programs
As an adjunct measure to any of the above cartridge disposal tips, you can spearhead the creation of a neighborhood or office building recycling program. This way, you can dispose of a large amount of cartridges at once and save time for everyone.
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