Imagine a person is doing printing tasks when all of a sudden their cartridge runs out of ink. They take a look inside and it’s confirmed that they need to either refill the cartridge or throw it away. Most cartridge suppliers don’t recommend refills, as there is a chance that it will damage the printer and void any warranties that came with the printer, so the person is only left with the choice to dispose the printer cartridge.
Environmental problems occur when people dispose their used cartridges. Instead of sending the used cartridges to be recycled, most people will just throw the printer cartridge in the bin, thinking that it will be disposed in the same way as other waste that goes to landfill. The issue is that printer cartridges take 450-1000 years to decompose and they also contain carcinogens and other chemicals, which can disrupt health making it harmful to both humans and the environment. The more printer cartridges that end up in landfill, the more likely it will contaminate our water supplies and soil.
There are people who try to do the right thing, however there’s another issue where people dispose the ink cartridges to be recycled. The cartridges are placed in recycling bins, however they are sent to the wrong recycling distribution channel. When this happens, the recycling centre cannot do anything and more often than not, the ink cartridges still end up in landfill.
So what needs to be done?
People need to become more aware of the impact that printer cartridges have on landfill and how they can improve their disposal habits so that used printer cartridges end up at the right recycling centres.
Cartridge recycling schemes are being rolled out around the world to help distribute used printer cartridges to the right recycling distribution channels. Australia’s Planet Ark has launched a few schemes tailored for individuals and businesses so they can easily recycle any used cartridges.
Planet Ark provides businesses with a collection service and all they need to do is place the used cartridges in the box and notify them to pick up the box for recycling. They’ve also provided collection boxes at Post Offices around Australia so that individuals with printers at home or their small business can drop any used cartridges to be recycled on their next visit to the post office. The only thing is people need to be told to place their used cartridges in a separate bag or box so they can be disposed correctly when they are sent for recycling.
It’s important that the cartridges are recycled using the right distribution channels.
One of the unfortunate issues that has come with cartridge recycling is that distributors have been selling the waste to developing nations such as Ghana, Pakistan, India and China. The recycling initiative brings employment to the locals at the severe cost of destroying their local ecosystem. These countries attract e-waste due to their low cost of labour, which can be as little as $10 a week. However, due to their primitive recycling methods, the waste is often discarded poorly and still contributes to landfill and the destruction of the environment.
So it’s important to know that the recycling distributor that you are using is helping to close the loop rather than continuing to contribute to the problem.
What can happen if ink cartridges continue going to landfill?
The major issues with printer cartridges ending up in landfill are the amount of space that they take up in landfill and how toxins from the cartridges affect the environment. Water can become contaminated and damage the local ecosystem. There’s evidence of this in the Chinese city of Guiyu whereby all of the water in the town is contaminated with lead and mercury. As a result, water has become a scarce commodity and needs to be shipped in from neighbouring towns. Local farmers have also seen their crops and livestock affected by the toxins from the waste.
The way to stop people from turning a blind eye is by getting them to care about the issue, which can only be achieved by demonstrating how it will affect them and their quality of life. Choosing not to recycle ethically will impact their health and reduce their lifespan because of toxins that affect the ecosystem. It’s up to them to start making the right choice and to start recycling their printer cartridges responsibly.