It’s a question that you may never have thought to ask – where did my printer cartridge come from, and what happens to it after I use it? You’d be forgiven for thinking that a printer ink cartridge is made new and finds its way into landfill after use, as this has been the dismal lifecycle of many other products that we use every day. Printer ink cartridges do, however, follow an interesting production cycle. Now next time you replace the printer ink cartridge in your printer, consider how it came to be and where it’s headed next. Let’s uncover the circular economy lifecycle of your printer ink cartridges.

Ordering genuine, not counterfeit

Let’s start this story with you when you order your ink cartridges. These cartridges should come directly from the manufacturer or a reliable cartridge provider that carries all major brands. These cartridges are designed specifically for the printer model they are designed for and will assure the high-quality prints you are after. Counterfeit cartridges, on the other hand, are an inferior product and will wreak havoc on your printing technology and produce poor prints. Unfortunately, these counterfeit products can look near-identical to genuine printer cartridges so you will have to order these mindfully to ensure that you are not falling prey to this illegal industry. If you have ordered a counterfeit cartridge, your printer will typically express an error message so pay attention to these signs.

After use

After you have used your genuine printer ink cartridges, where do they go? If you believe they enter a standard bin and disappear forever, you would be wrong. They should be safely disposed of in a specific cartridge bin that will be collected by Cartridges 4 Planet Ark. From there, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark will return these cartridges back to their manufacturers. For example, HP receives its used HP cartridges, and so on. These cartridges will typically end up at the closest production facility, saving you the hassle of you getting rid of them yourself. This is a free, environmentally-accredited and easy way to dispose of your cartridges and puts them on the path for their next stage of life. Depending on the manufacturer in question, what happens next will vary slightly, so let’s proceed to the next stage.

So begins the recycling

When the ink cartridges are returned to the manufacturer the recycling process begins. Printing manufacturers and HP, in particular, have invested large amounts of money and resources into perfecting these purpose-built machines that delicately separate the metals and minerals that are used to make printer cartridges. When these materials are separated and preserved, they can be used once again to make new printing technology, as opposed to using virgin materials that are economically and environmentally costly. And so begins the next lifecycle of recycled printer cartridges, although not all cartridges are used to make future products per se. Some expired printer cartridges have been used to create roads in Victoria, as well as support other regional and global initiatives that put recycled metals and plastics back to work and out of the landfill.

The lifecycle of a printer cartridge is never-ending and is a true example of the circular economy in motion. Next time you buy your printer cartridges, take the time to marvel at the great minds who have been instrumental in making printer cartridges almost 100% recycled. You may also choose to educate your team on the lifecycle of the printer cartridge, instilling respect and responsibility in them to disposes of their used cartridges correctly and always order genuine parts only. Education and engagement are the key ingredients in making this lifecycle so successful.

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