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Why Aren’t You Recycling Your Printer Ink Cartridges?

Some companies make it easy to return and recycle them while you're buying replacements.


Raise your hand if you recycle your printer’s ink cartridges when they run out.

Someone? Anyone?

That’s what I thought. A lot of us are guilty of tossing empty cartridges in the trash and forgetting about them as soon as we start printing with fresh, full cartridges.

But if you don’t mind taking a couple extra minutes, several printer manufacturers offer easy, free recycling programs for their ink cartridges. Sometimes, these are even paired with ink-buying programs to give you a one-stop shop for getting new cartridges while recycling the old ones.

Though these small, plastic things may seem like they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, recycling them can make a big difference. HP says its program, which has been in place since 1991, has recycled enough cartridges to circle the earth 2.3 times. And the company uses plastic from water bottles and coat hangers to make new cartridges, which has kept 2.5 billion bottles out of landfills.

Here’s a simple rundown of each company’s programs:


If you own an HP printer, you have three options for recycling and buying ink.

First, you can buy and recycle on a case-by-case basis. I own an HP printer but find myself stuck in the environmentally unfriendly cycle of buying new ink only when I really need to print something. When this happens, I race to CVS or Staples and pay whatever they ask, then I toss my old cartridges in the garbage.

Even if you’re guilty of this, too, you can still recycle. Go to this page to print out prepaid shipping labels that you can use to send in your ink cartridges for recycling. Just pop them in an envelope, slap the label on there and drop them in your mailbox.


The second option is HP’s Instant Ink program. You sign up for one of three monthly plans according to how much you think you print, and your printer automatically tells HP when you’re getting low on ink, nudging the company to send new cartridges to your doorstep before you run out. Monthly payments are 50 pages for $2.99, 100 pages for $4.99, or 300 pages for $9.99. Unlike penalizing contracts, you can start or stop Instant Ink at any time, or alter your plan for a month when you’ll be printing more or less than usual. New cartridges are delivered with prepaid envelopes for returning the old ones to be recycled.

The caveat here is that you need a printer that can work with this program. All 2015 models do, and some 2014 models work, too. To see a full list, or to search by entering your printer model information, click here.

The third option is My Print Rewards, which is like an HP loyalty program. You sign up for free at this website, get 10 percent off every time you buy ink, paper and toner, and receive your ink in the mail the next business day after you order it. All of these ink cartridges come with prepaid return envelopes for recycling old ink.



Canon’s recycling options aren’t nearly as extensive as HP’s. Canon doesn’t send prepaid shipping slips for people who want to return ink cartridges for recycling, nor does it offer a link on its website from which a prepaid label can be printed. Canon also lacks any kind of rewards or discount program like My Print Rewards from HP.

However, if you’re willing to walk to a FedEx store, you can recycle your Canon cartridges for free. To see if your inkjet cartridge can be recycled, check this website. You don’t even have to pack up the cartridge beforehand; instead, just hand it to the FedEx employee and he or she will take care of the rest.

Canon doesn’t have a way of auto-detecting ink levels like HP’s Instant Ink does, but you can use the Canon Pixma Printing Solutions app for iOS or Android to remotely check your printer’s ink levels. The app then directs you to Canon’s website, where you can buy more ink. Most Canon printer models from 2013 on will work with this app.

Brother and Epson Printers

Brother gives people a link on its website that will generate a return shipping label to print. The company suggests reusing the new ink toner’s packaging to return the old one, so you don’t have to hunt around for a box. And many new toner packages come with return labels inside for sending back the old.

But the Epson ink-recycling program is even more limited than Canon’s. To send back old cartridges for recycling, you have to supply your own envelopes and pay the postage fees. Lest you think Epson does nothing, the company oh-so-kindly provides its address at this recycling details website.

Best Buy

If you opt to become a My Best Buy member online, which is free, you’ll save 15 percent off ink and toner each time you buy. Unfortunately, this excludes Canon, Epson and HP, but includes others like Brother, Kodak and Samsung.

Though some companies make it more challenging than others, recycling your old cartridges instead of tossing them in the trash can make a dent in the world of e-cycling.

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