The state of the environment is a source of significant conversation. For businesses, it’s becoming increasingly clear that consumers expect them to join in this conversation and take active steps to reduce their operational footprints. One area that companies commonly turn to is their printing. As more businesses realize the real environmental impact of ink cartridges, they’re looking for ways to reduce their consumption and make the most of the supplies that already exist.

New ink and toner cartridges are costly from both financial and environmental perspectives. Read on to learn why and how companies can reduce their environmental impact by managing their cartridges intelligently.

The State of Discard: Cartridges

Despite the rise of digital tools, printing remains an essential business activity. The EPA estimates that the average office worker in the United States prints around 10,000 pages per year. That translates to some 375 million empty toner and ink cartridges – the vast majority of which wind up in a landfill.
Over the past decade, remanufactured and refurbished ink cartridges have steadily become more popular. Some printer manufacturers now offer recycling programs to encourage consumers to recycle these items rather than purchasing new every time. For example, HP estimates that it has reclaimed some 199 million pounds of plastic from used cartridges.
Nonetheless, this is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Enough cartridges still make it to the landfill that the EPA considers cartridges a significant contributor to the ongoing e-waste crisis. Lexmark estimates that only 30 percent of all cartridges produced are ever recycled. That’s a problem. Here’s why.

What Goes into Cartridge Creation?

The inside of a printer is an extreme environment. Paper and machinery are subject to the immense heat, pressure, and chemicals needed to print documents. Additionally, many office printers run continuously to maintain the steady stream of documents that businesses need to function.

It should be no surprise that cartridges are designed to withstand these rigors. The average cartridge is composed of hard plastics and steel that’s fortified with heavy metals like molybdenum and tungsten. Additionally, toner frequently includes chemicals that – while not officially toxic – are shown to be hazardous once they escape the cartridge into the soil. The EPA considers toner cartridges to be a form of hazardous waste. Legally, they can’t be thrown into the municipal trash collection in most places.

Creating such a robust piece of hardware puts about 10.5 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and results in an item that takes between 450 and 1,000 years to break down. In other words, every single cartridge that has ever been created since the first office printer hit the market in the 1950s still exists – somewhere. However, there’s a silver lining in this situation: because they’re so durable, they can be recycled several times.

How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Cartridges

The environmental impact of ink cartridges is tremendous. Fortunately, recycling cartridges not only mitigate a company’s carbon footprint but is often a cost-effective choice. Reducing reliance on freshly manufactured cartridges is a low disruption, high-impact way to inspire a greener office. Here’s how.

1. Transition to Electronic Documents

The best way to reduce the impact of a company’s print environment is to reduce the company’s reliance on its printers. Transitioning to electronic documents has many advantages, including an overall acceleration of company processes.

2. Choose Remanufactured and Secondhand Cartridges

The durable nature of cartridges means that they can typically be repaired, refilled, and resold – often at prices less than what manufacturers are prepared to offer. These cartridges perform at the same levels of quality as OEM cartridges and are tested extensively.

In addition, many companies collect unused or excess inventory – cartridges that were purchased but never needed. Buying these cartridges instead can save money and offset the production of cartridges by utilizing what already exists.

3. Sell Unused, or Unneeded Cartridges

When the difference between two cartridge models is a number, it’s easy to purchase the wrong thing accidentally. Likewise, the price of cartridges often inspires offices to stock up during sales – but that may lead to inventory that is never used.

In addition to freeing up office space and recovering funds, selling these unused cartridges is another way to help offset the environmental impact of ink cartridge production. Got a surplus of ink cartridges? Recycle them for cash. Put them back into the circular economy of cartridges for someone else to use.

Imaging Warehouse Helps Businesses Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

The environmental impact of ink cartridges is immense, but there are many ways to reduce that footprint. The motto “reduce reuse, recycle” holds true for cartridges as much as it does in other areas. Consider reducing the office’s use of the printers, reusing cartridges when possible, and recycling empty or unneeded supplies. These are low-disruption, high-impact strategies that can make every office greener.

Imaging Warehouse specializes in creating a circular economy of ink and toner cartridges. Looking for a model? Contact us – we carry all OEM brands and models.