Anyone who does a lot of printing at home or at the office knows how quickly those used toner cartridges can pile up. That can create a lot of bulky garbage for the landfills that really should be recycled instead.
Yes, that’s right. Your empty toner cartridges can be reused or recycled if you know where to send them. Unfortunately, most blue box programs don’t take them.
Thankfully, you do have other options for toner recycling.
Send Them to the Manufacturer
Many major printer companies offer recycling programs for their empty toner cartridges, even paying the shipping costs for you to send them back. Specific instructions vary by company, but the general process is that they will either send you prepaid boxes for shipping or you can print out labels from their website. Regardless of the details, the point is that you can send your empty cartridges back to the company at no cost to you.
If you use printer toner from any of these companies, you can send the empties back to them for free:
The only catch is that they only take their own branded toner products, not any of the generic ones that may work in their machines. There may also be minimums involved. For example, you have to have at least 5 cartridges accumulated before you can send them back to Xerox.
While you’re doing your toner research, see what other recycling initiatives each company has. You may be able to return other electronic or computer components for recycling as well. They can also give directions to nearby depots where you can drop of cartridges to avoid the shipping chore.
Third Party Recycling Options
Now, you can also do your toner recycling with other companies if you don’t want to (or can’t) send your cartridges back to the original manufacturer.
Companies like Environmental Office Solutions will actually pay you for each cartridge you send in, but you do have to cover the postage yourself. Thinkrecycle.com is another multi-manufacturer option for sending in empty toner cartridges, and they are partners with many environmental causes like tree-planting.
Many office supply stores will have an in-store drop-off bin where you can take empty cartridges regardless of make or brand. Staples does this, and even offers store reward points for each you to turn in.
Refill the Cartridges Yourself
This isn’t quite the same as toner recycling, but it can be a good way to reduce how many new cartridges you go through (and it will save you some money too).
Kits can be purchased with loose toner powder and instructions on how to refill a cartridge. The basic idea is that you drill or burn a small hole in the tank of the cartridge (a kit will usually include the tool for this), and then you carefully pour the toner into the empty tank. The hole is them sealed up with a piece of adhesive metal tape. It can be messy if you’ve never done it before but once you get the hang of handling toner power bottles, it should be a pretty painless job.
Not all cartridges will require a new hole either. Some are built with a refilling port that already has a hole and proper lid. If you are planning on doing your own toner refilling later on down the line, check out the cartridges before you buy to get one with a filling hole.
But really, it’s a fairly simple process in either case. Kits can be bought at most office supply stores, and they are designed to match all major manufacturer brands of toner ink or powder.
Regardless of which specific option you choose, it’s a great idea to recycle your toner cartridges as often as possible. That’s a lot of plastic you can keep out of the landfill.