An Inky Dilemma: Recycling Printer Ink and Laser Cartridges

More than 40 percent of American homes have computer printers that use plastic ink cartridges. Where do they all go?


Photo Courtesy Funding Factory

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The bad news
Every year, Americans discard 300 million ink and laser cartridges, estimates the International Imaging Technology Council. That’s a lot of industrial-grade styrene plastic dumped into landfills. And because an entire tri-chambered color ink cartridge must be replaced when it runs out of one color, some highly caustic ink lands in the dump.

The good news
Many schools and nonprofits now collect and recycle empty printer ink cartridges. One recycling program, run by the Funding Factory, has enrolled 22,000 institutions that send in used cartridges and cell phones. Participating schools earn reward points redeemable for computers, playground equipment, or supplies. Funding Factory and similar companies refurbish and refill inkjet and laser cartridges, then sell them for less than new cartridges.

How to help out
To find a participating school or nonprofit group in your area, log on to or call (888) 883-8237.