How to Recycle Used Ink Cartridges and Why It’s Important

Be honest with yourself: do you know how to recycle used ink cartridges, and is it a regular practice in both your home and workplace? Do the people you live and work with follow ink toner recycling best practices?

The world's plastic problem is not getting any better. With so many materials, including many plastics, unable to be recycled, it’s important not to neglect the recycling programs that work. If you’re unsure how to recycle ink cartridges, continue reading. We’ll share the different types of used toner recycling you can choose from and how to recycle ink cartridges at Staples, other drop-off centers, through the mail, and more.


How Do I Recycle Ink Cartridges: Does It Even Matter?

It should come as no surprise that humans produce A LOT of plastic waste. How much? Around

400 million tons of plastic waste is produced every year, and that number is steadily increasing. The UN Environment Programme says, “If historic growth trends continue, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1,100 million tonnes by 2050.”

Single-use plastic products are everywhere, and we use them every day. They include plastic bottles, straws, utensils, packaging, bags, and ink/toner cartridges.

It’s easy to get caught up in wishful thinking about plastics. Sure, many plastics can be recycled, and it feels good to know you are recycling, but recycling your plastic bottles at home is not enough. Many plastics can’t be recycled, and of the ones that can, many go straight into the trash due to laziness or lack of education about what can and can’t be recycled.

The UN Environment Programme estimates that plastic recycling rates are less than 10 percent. Let’s say that one more time—over 90% of plastics are not recycled. That’s a whole lot of missed opportunities and tons (literally tons) of plastic going into the environment, landing in oceans, or being burned, thereby producing even more greenhouse gas emissions.

While we know we can’t save the planet through ink and toner cartridge recycling alone, it is a simple program that can reduce your impact without much extra effort.

Let’s talk about how to recycle old ink cartridges to help combat your growing environmental footprint.


larry says

If you’re passionate about doing all that you can to lessen your impact as a business, read our 9 Office Sustainability Ideas for a Greener Workplace.


Since they’re not just made of plastic, ink and toner cartridges are considered e-waste. The ink alone can be made up of heavy metals, including lead, chromium, and mercury, and some cartridges contain hydrophobic foam to ensure they can’t be refilled again.

Tossing toner cartridges in the trash puts these harmful chemicals and materials into the earth and atmosphere. Since they are not made of one consistent plastic material, they can’t be tossed directly into the recycling bin either.

That’s where ink and toner recycling programs come in. There are numerous recycling programs that make it convenient to return both ink and toner cartridges so that they can be recycled properly. Many large printer and ink manufacturers run free mail-in programs, but drop-offs are also available at many retail stores as well as e-waste recycling centers.


larry says

If you haven’t already, educate your team about the importance of properly recycling ink and toner cartridges. No time? Review and discuss recycling practices next Earth Day.


How to Recycle Used Ink Cartridges

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Send Cartridges Back in the Mail

Ink and toner cartridges can be sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled for free. Many companies, such as HP, Canon, and Brother, offer recycling programs.

Some products may come with a ready-to-ship mailable envelope within your packaging materials. Look for this when you unpackage your cartridge or toner and keep it in a safe spot—one you’ll remember—while you use up your ink or toner. If you’re a forgetful person, set a reminder email or task for yourself with information on how to return your cartridges and where you’ve left your ready-to-ship packaging.

For products that don't come with a mailable envelope, you can visit the manufacturer’s website to print a free shipping label. A quick Google search will show you how to recycle toner through your printer brand, or you can follow our links for popular cartridge manufacturers below.

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Take Cartridges to a Retailer

Many big brand retailers and office supply stores offer recycling drop-off programs. Some offer rewards programs or money back for returning ink/toner cartridges and other electronics for recycling, while others simply provide a convenient location to drop off your recycling.

Ask your local office supplies store if they have a toner recycling box available. If you buy your product from a larger brand, they most likely have some sort of recycling program available. For example, the Staples ink and toner recycling program includes in-store drop-off and free printable shipping labels.

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Take Cartridges to a Recycling Center

Finding a recycling center near you is another viable option. Look for a recycling center that takes back ink/toner cartridges. A center that takes back e-waste will likely take back cartridges.

Choosing an e-waste recycling center means you can take back other e-waste at the same time, including broken or outdated printers, computers, cell phones, cameras, televisions, audio equipment, appliances, and more.


Ink and Toner Recycling Programs

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HP Ink/Toner Cartridge Recycling Program

HP offers an extensive recycling return program. If you did not receive a mailable envelope with your product, visit the HP website to print shipping materials or have them ordered to be sent to your home. If you don’t have access to the internet or prefer to speak to someone, call the recycling team at 1-800-340-2445 Monday-Friday.

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Canon Toner Cartridge Recycling Program

Accepted Canon-branded toner cartridges/bottles and waste toner containers may be returned directly to Canon. Print a free shipping label on the Canon website.

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Xerox Toner Cartridge Recycling Program

Xerox offers a wide section of recycling options. Eco Box Return is best if you have 5-30 items to return. You can choose your own box or order an Eco Box online. Add a free kit of Eco Boxes to your shopping cart by choosing "order boxes." An Eco Box can hold 5-30 used items to be returned for recycling.

Xerox also has a single item return option as well as pallet return for 30 items or more. The recycling return program is available for Xerox customers only.

Learn more about the Xerox global recycling program.

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Sharp Toner Cartridge Recycling Program

Sharp offers a free zero-waste recycling program that ensures all consumables are 100% recycled. They provide all shipping and recycling costs, and you can access printable shipping labels on the Sharp website.

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Brother Toner Recycling Program

With Brother, you can recycle ink, toner, drum, or p-touch cartridges. Repackage the item you want to ship back for recycling using the packaging items you received with the new item. Use your Brother account to print prepaid shipping labels. Access your printable shipping labels on the Brother website.


Have You Considered New Build/Compatible Cartridges?

As we’re sure you’re well aware, ink and toner replacements are expensive and can become a huge budget line item for businesses. We’ve done extensive research on the best cartridges to bring our customers a cheaper and more reliable option.

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New build, or compatible cartridges, are brand-new printer cartridges that are produced by a third party other than the manufacturer that made your printer. They are the cheapest option when it comes to refills, but don’t worry; they have all of the same functions as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) cartridges. OEM cartridges are ones produced by the manufacturer of your printer, such as HP, Xerox, or Canon.

Blue Summit Supplies carries compatible ink and toner cartridges that can save you up to 50% on your standard printer ink. If you’re looking for brand name cartridges, we carry those too, including HP, Brother, Xerox, and Canon.


More From Blue Summit Supplies

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💡 The Best Thermal and Color Label Printers for Small Businesses

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Jordan's passion for travel led her to design a career as a remote content marketer. Nearing 1000 published articles, she's spent the past decade using her interdisciplinary education to research and write content for a wide variety of industries. Working remotely, Jordan spends half of the year exploring different corners of the world. At home, she's content exploring fictional lands—Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Game of Thrones, Red Rising, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings.

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