Question: How the recycling of printer ink and toners could be the solution to viable management of e-waste.
Answer: Viable e-waste management means finding a solution to waste disposal and achieving manageable measures to mitigate it. The fact that ink and toner printer cartridges are refillable contributes so much in achieving such viable e-waste management. This means reducing wastage and improving efficiency.

Toner Recycling

The distinction between ink printers and toner printers
To completely contemplate and understand the roles of the ink cartridge and toner cartridge technologies in printing, it is sufficient to distinguish between ink cartridge printers and toner printers. Both of the two are used at home as well as offices for various reasons. Both toner and ink are used as the main printing media in the printing world. Toner is used in laser printers whereas ink is used in inkjet printers. The difference between the two media is that toner is powder, finely ground while the ink is the pigmentation of a tinted liquid. Toner does not adhere to the printing surface such as paper in the same manner ink which is liquid based adheres.

The role of printer cartridge ink, toners and other e-wastes on environmental conservation.
A report from the world economic forum,2019 provides that the quantity of e-waste dumped on landfills reached a staggering 48.5 million tonnes in 2018. This is the waste coming from electronic wastes that comprise of old electronics as well as damaged ones. To manage such non-biodegradable, solid and often hazardous waste requires a strategic approach and sane programs.

Printer ink cartridges and toners for laser printers are a sophisticated innovation that has been broadly received into the day-to-day office world for printing purposes. With the rise of printing activities comes the increased disposal of used up cartridges. This contributes to the millions of tonnes of e-waste generated and often disposed of in landfills. How we deal with this problem affects the main goal of environmental conservation.

Why recycle printer ink and toners?

Helping out in environmental conservation has always been the main goal by any organization especially one that has some ethical background. Upon recycling of the ink cartridges, the number of harmful materials being thrown away for disposal goes down. This means that the landfills receive lesser hazardous inks, chemicals, and non-biodegradable materials. The lesser the disposal of these materials the lesser the energy required to safely convert waste into harmless form thus making it an efficient way to tackle environmental waste.

You can earn money from recycling platforms. It is a wise move to sell or earn money when you return back cartridges to specific providers. Some enterprises such as the eCycle group, Recycle4Charity accepts old and used cartridges for a price which could be very valuable. The money earned helps leverage the sums used upon printing expenses as well as providing a platform for safe disposal of ink cartridges. This leaves both parties in a win-win situation.

It lowers the energy costs and time used in the production of other ink cartridges. The production process of cartridges requires a hefty investment in materials, chemicals and time. When recycled, old, used cartridges are renewed and refilled easily without requiring the production of other cartridges. The materials, energy and time resources are thus conserved. Ink-cartridge producing companies are therefore able to save significantly on production expenses and instead channel such money on making efficient cartridges and inks.

As a donation to charity. Some organizations make it possible for people and enterprises to offload their old and used ink cartridges through a charity platform. A good example is a Recycle4Charity program that ensures that proceeds from the sale of the cartridges go to charitable fields such as education, healthcare and children’s homes. It is a source of valuable raw materials. Just like any other e-waste, cartridge production requires enormous investment in specific raw materials. Most of these materials suffer the possible fate of burial and landfill disposal. This often causes a reduction in the supply of these raw materials. However, recycling programs make it possible to reuse these materials as raw materials and reduce the burden of having to struggle investing so much into the extraction of the same.

How printer ink and toners are recycled

Upon usage of your printer ink cartridge and depletion of the ink, you will be forced to react in two ways. One of the options is the disposal of the cartridges which will end up in landfills. This option means you will have to purchase a new cartridge to replace the printer with so that the day-to-day operations of office printing go ahead. This option has the main demerit which is the fact that it breaks the production of the printer. This is in the sense that the duration of time spent waiting for a replacement especially when there is a sudden depletion is costly to the organization or user.

The other alternative usually is the recycling of the printer ink cartridges. This means that no new cartridge is expected to replace the outgoing or depleted cartridge. The used cartridge is not disposed but instead, ink refilled back ready for usage.
To achieve the second alternative, there are two ways the recycling is done. One of the solutions is taking the empty cartridge to a retailer that deals with refilling of empty cartridges such as Costco stores or Walgreens. Here the cartridges are assessed and refilled in photo studios with ink ready for reuse back in the offices.

The other way refilling is done is through physically refilling the empty cartridges by oneself. Here the person doing the ink refill follows various steps so as to do so in a proper manner. These steps are discussed below.

Steps followed when refilling an empty cartridge with ink and toners
It is important for any person operating a printer to understand the steps taken when the need to refill the cartridges arises. Furthermore, the steps to be taken are simple to follow. There is a slight difference on how the two types of cartridges, toner cartridges, and ink cartridges, are refilled particularly because of the difference in nature as well as the type of material being used to refill. The few differences encountered while refilling the two types of cartridges is the layout of the cartridges. The toner cartridges will require some extra work to get into. The other difference is the method used to place the ink for the ink cartridge and the powder for the toner cartridge.

Refilling ink printer cartridges using a syringe.

  1. Purchase a refill kit for cartridge refill. These kits are available on online platforms or even in local office supply retailers.
  2. Before commencing the refill process, always put on rubber-made gloves. By doing this, you avoid having physical contact with the ink which often attaches to the hands and is unhygienic to the person refilling.
  3. Unplug the ink cartridge from its socket and locate the holes to refill through. Care should be taken especially when removing the cartridge and handling it so as to avoid damaging it.
  4. Following the detailed instructions provided with the printer by the manufacturer, refill the cartridges.
  5. Put back a seal on the ink cartridge to prevent backflow and mixing of the ink through the holes when left unattended.
  6. Cleanup the syringe used so as to avoid drying up and clotting of in in the syringe in preparedness for another refill in the future.
Printer Recycling

The future of printer cartridge recycling

The work put in place by critical members of the society toward ensuring sanity in environmental waste disposal is astonishing and recommendable. The move to recycling e-waste such as cartridges means a major step is being taken in the right direction.

However, besides all those attempts by activist, non-governmental organizations and the health sectors, the program of ensuring more refilling is achieved is always hampered by the companies producing and providing the cartridges. These companies earn by selling new cartridges for their clients. When a client opts to refill his or her own cartridge, the cartridge-producing company suffers economically. This scenario forces the companies to overprice their ink kits so as to gain some advantage. Therefore, the big picture here is the lack of proper backing from some printer companies to this initiative.

Therefore, the government should find a solution to this problem with the aim of bringing the corporate, private sector to the realization that environmental conservation is the bigger goal. It should develop programs that motivate these printer companies to more and more recycling of ink and toner cartridges.

A probably effective way a government can play a part is through legislating e-waste recycling. The country can ensure that the manufacturers of the products, in this case, printers, to provide facilities for the recycling process. This means that a printer company should bear the responsibility of ensuring that recycling processes are as swift as possible. This way it becomes a social and legal responsibility by a printer product company to ensure environmental protection.