OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Printer Cartridge Challenges in the Digital Age: Roger De Alwis on the OSC Situation

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Printer cartridge at the Battaramulla Recyling Center…awaiting an uncertian future.

Quick Facts

  • Cartridges are often overlooked as a possible recyclable item.
  • Soon, cartridges will pose a problem, just like paper, plastic and glass
  • Local collection centers will collect cartridges for their raw plastic, rubber, paper, metal and foam value.
  • A more effective way is sending cartridges off to Recycle4Charity or similar nonprofit organization, where you will be paid up to $15 for laser cartridges.
  • So, start today, something can be done. It’s a matter of doing

When we think of recycling we usually think of three things: paper, glass and plastic. Sure, it’s important to make sure to chuck last weekend’s Sunday times or the cola bottle into the recycling bin but everyone’s doing it these days.  Recycling paper, plastic and glass has become so mainstream that no one’s missing out on this chunk of the green revolution …or that’s what they are fooled into thinking. In fact, we miss out on all the minute amounts of plastics, paper and glass materials that are in items that are made from a combination of these things. For example, printer cartridges are widely overseen as a material that can be recycled. This is bad. If neglected, the pollution and costs of discarded and newly manufactured printer cartridges can become a huge problem, just as paper, plastic and glass came under our radar in the recent past.

In order to immerse ourselves headfirst in this potential problem, the Geography class of 2013 visited a local junk yard that collected recyclable items in order to send to recycling centers.  We asked around and found out that they do collect printer cartridges but they don’t recycle it the conventional way that printer cartridges are recycled. They take cartridges apart and send the individual material types to be recycled. According to inkguides.com, the conventional printer cartridge is made up of around 40% plastic, 40% metal and smaller percentages of rubber, paper and foam.  Although recycling individual components is not the most effective method, it is far better than throwing them in landfills, burning them to release thousands of harmful toxins and then using up more resources and energy to manufacture new ones. According to the person in charge at the junk yard, they only receive about 50 kilograms a month which shows us that not most people are familiar with the concept of recycling their ink cartridges but are used to just throwing them away either due to lack of awareness or carelessness. The person in charge admitted, when asked, that 50 kilograms a month is a small fraction of what’s really out there being used. So as seen, part of the problem is spreading the word. “HEY YOU, YOU CAN RECYCLE YOUR INK CARTRIDGES!”

The other possible option is where the printer companies (HP< epson etc.) themselves or  non-profit organizations take in the printer cartridges to remanufacture them. This is probably the best option. In this second option, one collects the printer cartridges and sends them to a nonprofit organization or the printer cartridge company itself that will remanufacture it for you. Normally, when a Printer/computer company takes in the items they do not pay you but a non-profit organization will as they sell the items to remanufacturers and they receive money. The money they receive is used to pay back the donors for the used cartridges and used to give back to charity as most of the nonprofit organizations are for charity, such as the Recycle4Charity organization.

When we manage fix the linear system that goes from factory to store to printer to landfill can we stop worrying about cartridges becoming a problem we can’t handle. Basically, companies like Recycle4Charity and local collection centers help transform our linear system of consumption into a circular one, where minimum waste exits the system, minimum resources are exploited and minimum energy is spent. Most of our electronics, including printer cartridges are designed to be thrown away, they are planned to be obsolete because this is good money for the capitalist. But, with a little help from you and me and a will fight to get back our planet from the capitalists, we can make planned obsolescence unplanned existence.

You can find out more about Recycle4Charity here: http://www.recycle4charity.com

The Overseas School of Colombo collects printer cartridges for recyling  so send yours in if you have empty ones at home!

Works Cited

“Made in China.” C7115A Toner Cartridge for Laserjet. Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

Personal Interview.23 March. 2012

“SAVE on Printer Ink!” Printer Ink. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

The New York Times. The New York Times. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

“Used Empty Inkjet Cartridges HP 21, 22.” Used Empty Inkjet Cartridges HP 21, 22. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.

article copyright Roger De Alwis 2012

The author (left) and Onkar at the Battaramulla Recycling Center

Written by recycling1011

2012-05-10 at 8:28 AM

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