What to Do With Old Ink Cartridges?

What to Do With Old Ink Cartridges?

Deciding what to do with old ink cartridges brings up eco-friendly concerns since improper disposal negatively impacts the environment. 

However, consumers have excellent reusable and recycling options for old ink cartridges. This in-depth guide covers ways to responsibly dispose of ink cartridges or the sustainable management of used ink cartridges. 

Recycling Old Ink Cartridges

Recycling programs for old inkjet cartridges allow consumers to dispose of old cartridges responsibly. Many retailers that sell ink cartridges, including Staples and Best Buy, provide collection boxes onsite. Additionally, manufacturers like HP and Canon offer free mail-back labels so customers can recycle empty and used cartridges by returning them.

There are also nonprofit programs, such as Recycle for Breast Cancer, that accept donated cartridges and channel funds raised into cancer research. 

Check locally too – many communities have free household hazardous waste collection events and facilities that take ink cartridges.

Benefits of recycling ink cartridges:

  • Conserves raw materials and energy used in manufacturing new ones
  • Reduces landfill waste
  • Allows materials like plastics and metals to be repurposed

How to Prepare Ink Cartridges for Recycling

Proper handling of expired ink cartridges ensures they can be properly processed through recycling programs. Follow these key steps for cleaning and packaging emptied cartridges to ready them for drop-off:

Step 1) Carefully seal any openings in the cartridge with durable packing tape in order to prevent ink leakage or seepage during storage or transport. Make sure no ink can escape through cracks or holes.

Step 2) Wrap each cartridge individually in a paper towel, newsprint, or soft cloth as extra leakage protection and to absorb small amounts of residual ink. Paper padding helps minimize mess if cartridges get damaged.

Step 3) Place the wrapped cartridges together inside a sealable plastic bag or rigid plastic tub to keep them contained and consolidated. If donating a bulk lot of cartridges, label the outer container with a count of included cartridges for easier verification.  

Step 4) Whenever possible given cartridge construction, remove any detachable printer printheads from cartridges to separate more components for dedicated recycling processes. Not all cartridges allow printhead removal, however.

Step 5) Check with your area’s specific ink cartridge recycling program for any preparation restrictions such as bagging needs, mandatory printhead removal if possible, or limits on certain cartridge brands or volumes. This ensures they meet eligibility processing requirements.

Following these basic preparatory best practices maximizes their chances of successful recycling.

Reusing Old Ink Cartridges

Rather than tossing cartridges after the initial ink runs out, innovative consumers can save money and keep plastic waste out of landfills through affordable refilling or repurposing programs. 

This sustainable management of used ink cartridges provides eco-conscious alternatives compared to constantly purchasing new replacements.

Refilling Ink Cartridges

Aftermarket ink refill kits allow users to inject new ink into depleted cartridge reservoirs, extending the usefulness of the plastic casing and integrated print head chip components. 

DIY home syringe kits are inexpensive and good for approximately three refills per cartridge. Retail chains like Walmart and Costco also offer professional in-store cartridge refilling.

Reuse quality depends partially on the cartridge model and age, but remanufactured cartridge ink refills are affordable enough that moderately reduced print quality may not impact general home use. Refilling instead of replacing cartridges cuts costs substantially while amplifying product lifecycles.

Donating to Charity Initiatives

How To Recycle Ink and Toner Cartridges

Many philanthropic organizations, including schools and nonprofit groups, fundraise by accepting donated used ink cartridges for resale or recycling. This charitable option aids sustainability efforts by diverting e-waste from landfills. National charities like Goodwill regularly sponsor cartridge donation drives with special collection bins.

Before donating, confirm details with each group, as some limit specific brands or models. Additionally, dried-out or expired cartridge donations may not qualify for acceptance depending on the organization’s arrangements with their recycling partners. Even with limitations, however, donating still reuses products constructively.

The key is reusing old cartridges creatively through refills or charitable initiatives rather than resigning them to waste removal unnecessarily. Refurbishing emptied inkjet cartridges conserves resources advantageously.

Return Programs from Manufacturers 

Many printer original equipment manufacturers lead environmental conservation efforts through voluntary cartridge return incentive programs redeeming consumer participation into impactful reclamation results.

For example, Canon’s initiative provides free prepaid shipping labels enabling customers to simply box then mail back retired hardware of any model or brand to dedicated recovery facilities for professional disassembly. 

Safely sorting plastics and metals ensures components funnel into proper waste streams through contractual brokers overseeing environmentally responsible materials reprocessing. This continually repurposes would-be trash into valuable commodities benefitting circular economic growth.

Lexmark, HP, Brother, Dell, and Epson all run similar zero waste schemes detailed on respective company websites as well. Usually self-printed postal labels come activated using existing eligible printer models registered to the account.

Proper Storage of Unused Ink Cartridges

Wise customers who have unused ink cartridge spares stored can maintain these assets correctly for future emergency backup, avoiding premature disposal regret. 

Follow basic preservation best practices:

  • Initially seal unopened OEM cartridges in zip bags with added silica moisture absorbers
  • Carefully adhere to safe temperature guidance from manufacturers
  • Label containers noting original purchase dates further tracking usable limits

By keeping cartridges in proven conditions that preserve ink integrity, operational shelf life extends easily over 12 months storing valuable spares for that unexpected urgent printer need.

Creative DIY Projects with Old Ink Cartridges

Repurposing spent cartridges for crafty home projects gives these would-be wastes artistic new life. Check out these fun, functional DIY ideas for reused empties:

Pen holders – Wash cartridges thoroughly and let dry before using decorative duct tape, paint, or glue to attach to containers like mugs or vases for handy desk storage.

Vases – Create custom bud vases by removing tops from large cartridges and decorating the plastic casing with texture, shapes, or color using paint, markers, or decals. 

Pencil cases – Adhere a sheet magnet to the bottom then decorate the cartridge body with decorative tape or fabric for a one-of-a-kind back-to-school carry case.

Additional possibilities include jewelry holders, memo boards, and even unique table lamps. Repurposed ink cartridges make great tween/teen crafts too – provide young crafters with safe decor options and emphasize recycling benefits.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Ink Cartridges

Support sustainability from the start by purchasing replacement cartridges made with recycled materials. Newer plant-based or non-toxic inks also compose some cartridge models with improved end-of-life-cycle processes. 

When shopping, consider:

  •  Cartridges containing 50% or more recycled plastic content
  •  Brands offering free takeback/mail-back recycling programs
  •  Vegetable oil-based inks eligible for composting instead of standard disposal
  •  Certified “green” cartridges like those meeting STMC standards 

Ask local retailers for available environmentally preferable cartridge options too. Every decision at the point of purchase incrementally motivates positive change.


When deciding what to do with old ink cartridges, responsible consumers have multiple options at their disposal for managing such problematic wastes proactively once the initial ink runs empty. 

Refurbishing through affordable refilling programs extends usable lifespans multiple times rather than purchasing new replacements constantly. Charitable donations to qualifying nonprofit groups also constructively repurpose would-be trash beneficially by raising funds or supplying discounted cartridge recovery materials. 

Following sound inkjet sustainability practices like refilling, reusing through donations, and then properly recycling once fully expired directs consumer lifecycle waste flows responsibly from start through eventual end-states. 

Implementing several complementary strategies maximizes value recapture while reducing discarded plastic volumes clogging regional landfills over the long run.


Can I throw old ink cartridges in the regular trash?

No, it’s not recommended; recycle them to prevent hazardous waste.

Where can I find ink cartridge recycling programs?

Check with retailers or visit the manufacturer’s website for recycling locations.

Is it possible to refill old ink cartridges at home?

Yes, but it requires precision and the right equipment; consider professional refilling services.

Are there any incentives for recycling old ink cartridges?

Many manufacturers offer discounts or rewards for returning used cartridges.

How do I prepare old ink cartridges for recycling?

Remove them from the printer, store in a plastic bag, and follow the recycling guidelines provided by the manufacturer.


About Saif Ghori

I am Saif Ghori and I have always had a passion for working in the realm of printer cartridges. I have worked in this field for a long time and through my experience, I have learned many things including the importance of recycling unused printer cartridges. Through my experience, I have also learned how to address the common issues that one faces when trying to work with these cartridges.

One thought on “What to Do With Old Ink Cartridges?

  1. I am not sure where youre getting your info but good topic I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this information for my mission

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