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Reuse it or Never Lose it - The Second Life of Empty Printer Cartridges

Reuse it or Never Lose it - The Second Life of Empty Printer Cartridges
May 2, 2018

The national conversation is very much focused on recycling. Whilst the main emphasis is on the collection of recyclables, especially packaging, attention should also be turned to reapplication of materials from products.

Toner and ink cartridges are made up of fine plastic particles, carbon and colouring agents, all of which are difficult for mother nature to naturally degrade. You may therefore be surprised to hear, that as much as 97% of an empty toner cartridge can be recycled and reapplied in new and innovative ways.

Because printer cartridges are made from many different materials, there are extra costs in breaking them down. Original Cartridge Manufacturers, the ones who made your printer, subsidise these costs in an effort to keep their products out of landfill and polluting the environment.

The compatible manufacturers, most of whom are based in China, make no contribution to keep their products out of landfill. A printer cartridge that goes to landfill will take between 500 and 1,000 years to breakdown. Those valuable materials will never be reused and simply wasted.

Cartridges Direct has partnered with ethical recyclers including Close the Loop, and their collection arm  Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, to pioneer processing technologies to safely recycle ink cartridges, toner cartridges, toner bottles and other print consumables. By choosing sustainable cartridge providers, you can ensure that your printing needs do not come at the expense of the environment. Read on to find out how innovative recycling technologies have provided a second life for empty printer cartridges, to ‘Close the Loop’ between the printer and harmful landfill.  

How does the recycling process work?

Inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, toner bottles and drum units are processed through highly specialised equipment, capable of reducing the cartridges to smaller particles that can be more easily separated. As the waste stream can potentially contain hazardous raw materials, state of the art equipment is necessary for safe processing and handling.

Magnets are then used to remove iron-based metals, while electric currents are used to remove aluminium. The end result of this process is the recovery of 'raw' materials. These materials are further filtered, upgraded and then used in normal manufacturing in order to make new products.

Products that are manufactured using recycled printer cartridges:


TonerPave was developed in Australia. and is a form of sustainable asphalt made with used toner powder extracted from the recycled toner cartridges of the 'Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' program. As toner powder consists of very small particles of plastics, this can be separated in the recycling process. This is then further refined to make a new substance, which improves the performance of asphalt. TonerPave is widely used in Australia and is gaining more acceptance internationally.

Check out the video below to learn more about TonerPave and the positive effect it is having on reducing our carbon footprint






eWood is a sustainable material created from recycled materials sourced from toner cartridges, printers, computers, televisions and other electronic equipment. It provides an alternative to unsustainable alternatives including timber, concrete and steel, which all have environmentally damaging manufacturing processes. eWood is made from 95% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable, therefore conserving our natural resources, by reducing the need for raw materials.


Steel, aluminium, stainless steel and precious metals are separated by magnets in the recycling process. With a ready market for scrap metals, these recycled materials can then be reapplied to become aluminium food cans and other items.  Making products from recycled materials uses less water and energy than making them from new materials. The process therefore reduces greenhouse gases, air and water pollution and the harmful emissions released in landfill and incineration processes.  In fact, ethical recycling processes can be achieved with zero waste going to landfill.  


Enviroliner felt-tipped pens are the world’s first pens to use recycled ink from discarded inkjet cartridges. The plastic casings of all Enviroliner™ pens are also made from plastic that has been sourced from waste printer cartridges recycled through the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' program. All up, over 90% of an Enviroliner pen’s casing and ink is made from recycled materials.

Similarly, some of the plastic recovered during toner cartridge recycling can be used to make other common stationery items, including rulers. Made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, these stationery items can be recycled easily after use, by placing them into a cartridge collection box.

Check out the video below for more information about recycling through the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' program.





Currently around 15 million cartridges have been diverted from landfill through the work of ethical recycling programs. Ink cartridge recycling is a step in the right direction towards successful sustainable development. By participating in the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' program, cartridge manufacturers pay for the collection, transport, sorting and recycling of their own cartridges. It is time to make a commitment to the environment, and partner with an ethical and sustainable cartridge provider.