The world that we now live in is highly driven by technology and all of its impressive capabilities. Whether we’re using it to talk on the phone, search something on Google, or to invent something new, technology has provided us with an expansive amount of opportunities in all kinds of fields.
The power that technology gives us, however, also gives us a great deal of responsibility. Advances in technology have given us a lot of amazing gifts, from life-changing tools for human transplants and cures all the way to high-quality film-making and sustainable energy. There is no denying it; we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are now if it weren’t for the power of technology.
And yet, it’s important to recognize that some of the smartest and most efficient inventions to come out of technology often leave us with a lot of mess to clean up. For example, the convenient Keurig coffee machine created steaming, single cups of varied coffee flavors in less than a minute, which was perfect for those who appreciate a hands-free, quality cup of java.
Unfortunately, years later, the required “K-Cups” still aren’t completely recyclable and, in 2014, there were more than 9 billion K-cups sold. In that year, there were enough K-cups in landfills to circle the Earth more than 10 times.
It has become increasingly clear that technology needs to be more Earth-friendly and capable of being recycled. As we’ve progressed, some products have begun to offer more sustainable options, especially in terms of high-volume products that are required in bulk.
When it comes to the popular printer, ink jet cartridges have been a target for some time in this conversation. Luckily, a number of printer and quality cartridge companies have taken the lead and now offer cartridges that can be recycled when we’re done using them. If you’re wondering about the ramifications of throwing your ink jet cartridges in the garbage, consider some of the environmental benefits of recycling your ink supplies.
What Happens to Ink Jet Cartridges in Landfills?
When a single ink jet cartridge ends up in a landfill, it isn’t going anywhere fast. For decades, an ink jet cartridge will sit among the other waste, releasing carcinogens and other harmful chemicals into the soil, the water, and the air.
As a result of the millions of ink jet cartridges in the landfill, it’s possible for the surrounding areas to experience lower air quality, poor soil conditions, and even contaminated water that affects both people and wildlife. This kind of destruction trickles into all different areas of our lives and our habitats, which is why it is so critical that we recycle items that can easily be processed in a more sustainable way.
How Are Cartridges Recycled?
Aside from recycling your own ink jet cartridges, there are a handful of companies in North America that operate full-time ink jet recycling facilities. These companies work with bulk numbers and often receive large loads from corporations and business that go through a lot of printer ink on a daily basis.
Companies such as Cartridges 4 Planet Ark are dedicated to the proper decomposition of ink jet cartridges and help to recycle approximately 13,500 of them every single working day. When it comes to the process, the main goal is the very detailed breakdown of each individual ink jet cartridge.
To get the best results, the cartridges are sorted based on brand and type. Some of these items can be sent back to their original manufacturers, where they are put into their own recovery and remanufacturing programs.
As for the rest, the cartridges, toner bottles, and drum units are reduced to smaller pieces to be separated. Magnets are used to remove iron-based metals, while eddy currents work to remove aluminum.
The end of this process results in the recovery of “raw” materials, all of which are potentially dangerous or valuable and that need to be handled in a specific way. The secondary raw materials are collected and meant to be used in normal manufacturing to make new products—ideally to create new cartridges.
Benefits of Recycling Ink Jet Cartridges
Annual ink jet printer sales have reached more than 18 billion units in recent years, which means the demand for ink jet cartridges is just as high as ever. Each year there are more than 375 million cartridges improperly disposed of, which means they usually end up in landfills, where it can take more than 1,000 years for a single cartridge to decompose.
These are unfortunate statistics, considering that 97% of an ink jet cartridge’s contents can be properly recycled and/or reused.
The following are some of the important benefits of recycling your ink jet cartridges instead of leaving them to decompose for decades in a landfill:
Decreased Landfill Usage
When people recycle their ink jet cartridges, you can see the difference in landfills. As a result of recycling these little cartridges, more than 40,000 tons of plastic and metal is saved from the landfill just in North America alone.
For every 100,000 cartridges that are recycled, it is possible to save 9,599 kilograms of aluminum and 1,000,000 liters of oil. It’s important to note that electronic waste is one of the largest growing problems in landfills, as a direct result of our growing dependency on technology and tech products. Recycling these small items can make a huge difference when it comes reaching our goals for sustainable living.
Decreasing your intake of just about anything man-made can help to reduce the amount of pollution and emissions required to produce it. When it comes to cartridges, one of the benefits of recycling is that there is less work needed on the part of the landfill, resulting in fewer greenhouse gases and emissions that are bad for the planet. When it comes to recycled and re-used cartridges, the oil consumption required is reduced to zero.
Recovering Valuable Materials
Recycling products like cartridges is super helpful to creating a more sustainable planet through recovered materials. By completing this simple task, we can provide the companies with reusable plastic and metals that can be remade into something new. As a result, there is a less demand to create more of these elements because recycled products offer all of the inventory that is needed.
Conservation of Energy and Water
There is a lot of energy and water that goes into both creating new products, as well as attempting to dispose of products that are found in the landfills. With product recycling, we’re able to conserve more of these raw materials for other means, as opposed to using them for products that could have been recycled.
Conserves Natural Materials
To create new man-made items, the need for natural materials is always quite high. By recycling ink jet cartridges, we can help to conserve the natural materials required, such as timber, minerals, water, and oil.
Increased Capacity with Refurbished Cartridges
For those who are considering recycling their ink jet cartridges, it’s also good to know that these items are often refurbished to be re-used again. This kind of practice has tons of benefits, including the fact that refurbished cartridges often have a higher capacity than their original state. These items come with a factory warranty and are sold at a lower cost as well.
How You Can Help
If you’ve never recycled ink jet cartridges before but you’re planning to start, then there are a few ways that you can be more effective in the process. The following are just a few of the ways to make a difference when it comes to lowering your environmental footprint:
Many people don’t know that it is possible to re-use your ink jet cartridges multiple times before disposing of them. For many cartridges, it is possible to refill them multiple times with the same or very similar results to when you first purchased the cartridge.
In newer printer models, many are designed with a printer head in the printer, and the cartridge is simply an ink tank that can be refilled. This is possible so long as you make sure that the sponge does not dry out, which will cause it to harden and be incapable of printing.
Other printers require you to invest in a refilling kit, which is often fairly inexpensive. Users will need to read instructions very carefully; generally, the user is required to drill a hole in a specific location on the cartridge where they can then use a syringe to load the sponge back up with ink. With this option, it’s suggested that users wear gloves and protective gear to avoid any ink spills or stains.
Use Refurbished Cartridges
Refurbished cartridges are created from existing printer cartridges that have already been re-used or that have been repaired. Before being acceptable for reselling, these cartridges are checked for performance by being examined, cleaned, and tested to make sure they will work properly.
These kinds of cartridges create much less waste and use a much smaller amount of energy and petroleum during manufacturing, in comparison to regular OEM cartridges.
It’s easy to forget about the part a small cartridge can play in the health of the planet, so it’s important to remind yourself of this capability when your cartridge is empty. To help you remember to recycle, tape a sticker to the side of the cartridge that will remind you not to throw it out once it’s empty.
This is also a very good idea if you have more than one person in the home using your printer. Regardless of who takes out the empty cartridge, they will be reminded to recycle the item or to refill it if it is re-usable.
Spread the Word
If you didn’t know that cartridges were recyclable, then there’s a good chance that others in your home or neighborhood don’t know about it, either. If you can, try to spread the word about recycling cartridges by talking to the people in your area or offering to collect empty cartridges when people are done with them.
There may also be companies in your area that will properly dispose of your technology for you, so be sure to do some research if you’re looking for a safe place to dispose of your ink jet cartridges.
Reduce Your PC’s Carbon Footprint
Aside from your cartridges, there are a few other ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to your computer and printer.
One of the best ways to save small, but important amounts of energy is to turn off your computer and printer completely when you’re not using them. Many newer models can go into a sleep mode that is almost as efficient as bring turned off completely, but it’s an even better option to turn the screen right off and pull the plug.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to stick with your older machines a little while longer. It takes a lot of materials and energy to build a single computer or printer for one customer, so you can imagine the kind of blow the Earth is taking as new models roll out every year.
If you must go with a new computer or printer, look for something that will last you a very long time. Research your options and look into warranties that will ensure you’re not searching for a newer option in a few years. Some companies are better than others when it comes to sticking with what works, so research companies with long-standing, quality products that aren’t undergoing constant upgrades.
Ink cartridges are a necessary tool in today’s day and age, but it’s important that we dispose of them properly. Recyclable items are just as easy to dispose of as regular garbage, so be sure to educate your household members about what can be recycled and keep your blue bins close by. Even though it may not seem like it, if everyone made this small change in their routine and recycled their ink cartridges, we could make a much larger impact on our sustainability.
Be sure to pass the word along to friends and family so that we can all start doing our part when it comes to giving back to the environment.