More than 500 million printer cartridges are sold each year in the United States, and more than half — 350 million of those — are sent to landfills. Toner cartridges are both recyclable and reusable, so more eco-friendly options for disposal exist. There are two main choices for keeping printer cartridges out of landfills: recycling and refilling them.
If you want to refill your ink cartridges, there are two options. You can bring them to a retailer for this service — for example, participating Walgreens and Costco stores clean and refill cartridges in the photo department. You can also refill them on your own following these steps:
- Buy a printer cartridge refill kit at an office supply store or from an online retailer.
- Put on rubber gloves to prevent getting ink on your hands.
- Remove the printer cartridge and locate the two refill holes or toner refill port, which might be under the label.
- Follow the directions included with the kit to determine how exactly to fill your cartridges.
- Reseal the ink cartridge after refilling it.
- Clean the ink refill syringe after each use.
If you want to recycle your ink cartridges, use the Earth911 recycling locator to find options in your area.
Not sure whether refilling or recycling is the right option for you? Read on in our FAQs to see when each situation makes the most sense.
Frequent Ink Cartridge Recycling Questions
Is it better to recycle or refill ink cartridges?
Reusing ink cartridges creates less waste, but they can only be refilled two or three times. Many people say it is cheaper to refill printer cartridges than to buy new ones each time because they are refilled to the top, unlike some new ink cartridges. If you do refill your cartridges, make sure you recycle them at the end of life.
How many times can I refill my printer cartridges?
Toner cartridges can’t be reused indefinitely and are usually good for a few uses. If you have an inkjet printer, avoid letting the cartridge run out of ink completely before refilling it. Once the inkjet sponges become dried out, they cannot be refilled.
How can I recycle ink cartridges?
There are many ways to go about doing this, depending on the cartridge manufacturer and the office stores in your area. Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot all have cartridge recycling programs that can earn you rewards. At Staples, you can earn $2 in rewards when recycling ink cartridges and spending at least $30 in ink or toner. OfficeMax and Office Depot programs allow you to qualify for 200 reward points for each recycled ink cartridge when making a qualified $10 purchase in the same month.
Do ink and toner cartridge manufacturers have recycling programs?
HP has a cartridge recycling program where you can bring printer cartridges to participating office supply stores or ship them free of charge. The cartridges are part of a closed-loop recycling program. Canon has a recycling program that allows participants to drop off cartridges at FedEx locations.
Are there programs to recycle ink cartridges and benefit a charity?
Yes. Cartridges for Kids is a program that allows a charity or school to collect cartridges and receive money in return.
- How to Refill Inkjet Printer Cartridges: Step-by-step instructions on how to inject toner into your cartridges to save money and reduce waste
- HP’s Ink Cartridge Recycling Program: Information on HP’s innovative closed-loop recycling program and links to videos
- Office Depot Recycling Program: Recycle up to 10 cartridges a month to earn points toward a reward certificate
- Staples Ink Cartridge Recycling Program: This program gives customers $2 in rewards for every cartridge recycled