By Niall Roche
In a recent stand-up routine, comedian George Carlin suggests that maybe man's reason for existence is because the Earth wants plastic.
The comedy team, Penn & Teller, assert in their cable show bullpucky that recycling isn't really all that useful and maybe not necessary.
Whether the Earth wants plastic or not, recycling of inkjet cartridges is useful in many different ways. However, before you choose where to recycle your inkjet cartridge, do a little research to make your recycling efforts effective. Recycling won't work if we don't close the loop. Many charitable institutions around the world have initiated ink cartridge recycling programs, which fund hospitals, school activities and other social concerns. This type of funding cuts costs in many ways from tax breaks for charitable donations to lowering the price that we have to pay for the services the funded organizations provide. In addition, remanufactured compatible inkjet cartridges are usually a fraction of the cost of brand name inkjet refills.
Several inkjet printer manufacturers also maintain recycling programs. However, your recycled ink cartridge doesn't always make it around the loop.
Epson, in cooperation with Funding Factory, recently launched a free recycling program for its customers. Schools and businesses can get points for collecting and remitting empty cartridges to Epson.
However, the cartridges are not remanufactured or refilled. They are incinerated. To be fair, mention must be made that the incineration is at an environmentally friendly waste-to-energy plant; however, it's easy to see that Epson is the big winner in this recycling effort. Their recycling plan takes cartridges out of the hands of remanufacturing plants that can offer less expensive remanufactured compatible cartridges to the consumer.
Hewlett Packard also has a free recycling program and they proudly announce that more than 1.8 million HP inkjet cartridges were recycled in 2003. Unfortunately, for the consumer, plastics and metal from the HP cartridges are also disassembled and made into new products. Other components are "used to generate energy or are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner."
Canon offers its customers several options for recycling toner cartridges, including a single return option, an up-to-eight multiple return option, and a bulk return option. Whichever you choose, a shipping label can be downloaded directly from their website. Return shipping via UPS is pre-paid by the company. It appears from many recycling and other eco-friendly programs displayed on their website, that Canon is a leader in environmental stewardship, however to date they have no recycling program in place for inkjet cartridges.
Lexmark's recycling program is 100% free, as are the other printer manufacturer recycling programs. Customers request a kit using an online order form. Lexmark pays the postage both ways. However, there is one major difference between Lexmark's program and the programs of the other print giants. Lexmark works with Planet Ark and Close the Loop in Australia to ensure every collected cartridge is remanufactured or recycled. In addition, they have similar recycling programs in Latin American and South Africa. In Europe, every purchase of a Lexmark high-volume cartridge comes with a postage-paid recycling bag included. Now that's closing the circle!
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