Cash Through Trash

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Have you ever noticed the prepaid cell phone and inkjet cartridge recycling envelopes available at non-profit organizations like your local zoo or museum? These fundraising tools provide a source of revenue while keeping millions of products out of landfills every year.

Recycling companies that specialize in collecting cartridges and cell phones by mail are an increasingly popular business model. In fact, Earth911’s listings for inkjet cartridges have grown by 11 percent since September 2008, with these mail-in programs contributing largely to their popularity and availability.

So why are cartridges one of the most commonly accepted recyclables by mail, and how do charities benefit from the process?

Throwing away an inkjet cartridge is not only a waste of materials, but a waste of an opportunity to help a local organization in need. Photo: HP.com

Don't waste valuable materials or an opportunity to help a local organization in need. Support a program in your town by recycling! Photo: HP.com

Cartridge Repair

Here are a few fun facts about your printer ink:

  • It takes a gallon of oil to make one inkjet cartridge.
  • We throw away approximately 13 cartridges every second.
  • You can make up to $5 for recycling a single print cartridge (with the right program).

The primary use of these accepted cartridges is to remanufacture them, according to Brian Cahill, operations manager of The Recycling Factory. “We can remanufacture and sell these cartridges at up to 50 percent savings over brand-new cartridges,” he said. “The benefit to our customers is that they can give away waste at no cost and also earn money for charities.”

For The Recycling Factory, these charities include Habitat for Humanity and Boys Hope Girls Hope. Cartridges can be mailed in, using prepaid packaging, and customers decide whether to donate the money to any charity of their choice or receive a check. The Recycling Factory is actively seeking additional charities to work with in the U.S.

Because inkjet cartridges can only be refilled or remanufactured a certain number of times, The Recycling Factory will break down unusable cartridges to recover and recycle the metal and plastic. The company has a zero-landfill policy.

Steps for Success

While these programs makes sense for individuals looking to unload their cartridges and phones, the impact can be substantial for an organization using recycling as a fundraiser.

“This is a year-round opportunity, so it augments other fundraisers,” says Darcy Tucci, customer service manager for FundingFactory.com, which has about 30,000 schools and non-profit organizations that send in recyclables. “We’ve seen more and more charities come aboard in the last couple of years.”

This type of fundraiser is unique in that “donors” don’t support the organization through direct financial contributions.

“It is typically very easy to get supporters for this type of fundraiser because no one is asking for money or selling anything,” adds Tucci. “We also supply promotional materials to help them spread the word and have some organizations that send us a shipment each week.”

There is certainly no shortage of recycling options for cartridges and cell phones. But by recycling through the mail, you could help out a cause near to your heart.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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