A good printer is an invaluable office and home addition — it’ll print, scan, and copy all of your important documents.
The problem is what to do with your old printer once you upgrade? It’s tempting to leave it collecting dust on the shelf. But the time comes when it’s time to get rid of your broken or outdated printer.
The important question is: How to do it responsibly?
The answer: printer recycling.
Think about all the expenses one has when starting a business. Your old printer can be refurbished and save a lot of money for someone.
Also, most importantly, if you get rid of your printer responsibly, it means the toxic materials won’t leach from the landfills and into underwater streams.
Today, I’ll talk about everything related to printer recycling, so you, too, can be a responsible green citizen and get rid of your printer in an eco-friendly way.
Yes, printers are recyclable.
I’ll admit before I started looking into what to do with my old printers, I didn’t know they could be recycled. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that yes, all kinds of printers and printer parts are recyclable.
Printers that are recyclable are:
The bottom line is, all printers and their parts can be recycled, so there’s no excuse not to do so. Let’s talk about why you need to recycle your printer.
When I first started looking into what to do with my old printer, I wasn’t aware of all the consequences and legalities (yes, there are laws about printer recycling).
Here are all the reasons to recycle your printer.
E-waste is a term used to describe electronic products that have reached the end of their life. Among others, this includes computers, TVs, cell phones, mp3 players, and printers.
E-waste products are made of several components, many of which contain toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, lithium, and more. These substances are harmful to people and the environment. They can leach into the ground and pollute our water streams and ecosystems for generations to come.
They can also lead to brain, liver, kidney diseases and impact our nervous and reproductive systems.
There are about 70 million computers in landfills across the US. And that’s only computers. Take a moment to think about all the other electrical appliances we use and discard on a daily basis.
What’s devastating is that e-waste is the fastest-growing municipal waste stream in the US, and only 12.5% of it is being recycled nowadays.
Because e-waste takes up so much space in the landfill and has an extremely slow decomposition, states and municipalities across the US are implementing laws about how to get rid of e-waste.
More and more states nowadays are making it illegal to throw away electronics in the trash.
The goal is to get residents and businesses to recycle or refurbish old electronics instead of throwing them out. These devices can get fixed and given to new owners, or their parts can be salvaged for another use.
Also, printer ink cartridges have toxic substances, and states want to make sure these are taken care of in a way that’s not harming the environment nor the residents.
This doesn’t apply only to big companies, but to regular citizens as well. If your state has a law in place for recycling printers, you could get fined if you do otherwise.
California has strictly banned dumping all kinds of electronics in the trash since 2006, including printers. New York has a $100-$300 fine for anyone caught throwing out electronics at the curb. Illinois has a first-time fine of $25.
Other states with printer policies in place include Minnesota, Indiana, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Indiana. If your state isn’t on the list, don’t expect it to last. Instead, learn how to responsibly get rid of your printer ahead of time.
And yes, it's alarming!
Same as a computer, printers have volatile memory (like computer RAM) that gets deleted once you turn off the printer, and non-volatile memory (like computer hard drive), which doesn’t get deleted once the device is turned off.
Some printers can even save a record of the documents sent to be printed. Even clearing the printer memory doesn’t mean all the documents will be destroyed forever.
Keep this in mind if you plan to donate or sell your printer.
If you plan to recycle, a qualified recycler will destroy the printer data for you.
E-waste recycling centers are the best places to recycle your old printer.
Check if there’s a local e-waste recycling center close to you for maximum environmental benefits. If you recycle in a local e-waste recycling center, you’ll be lowering the pollution associated with electronic transportation.
Plus, the recycled materials will stay and be used in your local community, so it’s a win-win situation.
Find the nearest drop-off point to you, or check if you can mail the printer to the recycling center of your choice.
Apart from helping your local community, you should use e-waste recycling centers because they’re professionals for e-waste disposal.
You can use GreenCitizen's Green Directory to find your local e-waste recycling centers.
E-waste recycling centers are a more responsible choice compared to recycling companies. Recycling companies mostly want high-value electronics to resell for profit. They ship the other low-value items overseas, where they’re dumped in landfills, which is the thing you’re trying to avoid.
Finally, e-waste recycling centers use industrial recycling machines. These machines are specifically designed for e-waste recycling.
Electrical waste has to be manually sorted, so the secondary raw materials are recovered, and harmful substances are removed from electrical waste during the separation and sorting processes. They are then safely disposed of, so there’s no negative influence on the environment.
Also, printers can be pretty big. They have to be broken down into smaller and more manageable sizes. E-waste recycling centers will be equipped with shredders, pulverizers, granulators, and other size reduction equipment.
Essentially, e-waste recycling centers are a way for residential and commercial locations to dispose of electronic waste responsibly.
Several printer manufacturers have their own recycling programs, and you can recycle directly with them.
Here are a couple of examples.
Any Lexmark product that’s at the end-of-life phase can be recycled directly with them.
You can return Lexmark products, and they will be recycled for free. This doesn’t apply if your printer is still under warranty. If this is the case, follow the warranty instructions.
Pro Tip: Lexmark allows you to use new Lexmark printer packaging material to return the old printer.
Canon also offers recycling of their products. They have started Environment & Sustainability Initiatives that help the consumers recycle printers, ink cartridges, and other consumer products.
How Canon printers can be recycled depends on each state’s law.
Visit their page, where you have a list of all states in the US, and each state’s requirements for recycling small office and home products are listed.
Please check out Canon Environment & Sustainability Initiatives for further details.
On their website, HP has a list of products that can be recycled, depending on the region you’re in.
They also offer other options, such as:
Please check out HP Planet Partners for further details.
Epson has a Product Stewardship Program that enables Epson customers to send back used Epson printers and scanners free of charge.
To recycle your printer:
Please check out Epson — Recycling Program For Printers, Hardware, Ink Cartridges for further details.
Oki partners with solid waste companies that are helping develop markets for recycled materials.
They state that all hardware they recycle is handled in accordance with U.S. federal and state regulations.
They offer a list of states where they participate in end-of-life hardware disposal methods. You can find out the requirements for printer disposal on the list.
Please check out Oki — Environmental Responsibility Recycling for further details.
Please check out Xerox — Equipment Recycling for further details.
Pro Tip: If your equipment is in a lease or rental agreement, you’ll need to prepare paperwork before removing it. You can contact your sales representative to get all the necessary info.
Dell accepts not only Dell products but any brand of used computer equipment.
They accept laser and inkjet printers and either full or empty ink or toner cartridges. Dell is calling this service the Dell Reconnect program. Apart from the printers, you can recycle other Dell products using the Dell Reconnect program.
Dell also has the option of recycling your new printer packaging for free.
Please check out Dell Reconnect for further details.
Another option you have is to use big-box store recycling programs.
These could be a good option if your printer is too big and heavy for you to load it and transport it to a recycling center.
Two of the most popular big-box stores are Staples and Best Buy. Here’s how to recycle at both of these.
Staples recycles computers, printers, inks, and toners for free. Check out their website for a complete list of electronics they recycle.
Staples is an e-Stewards Enterprise, which means they use the highest standards for electronics disposition, and the electronics will be recycled responsibly.
You can either take the printer to your local Staples store or arrange a pick-up.
You can also call them and ask for a box and other packaging materials if you need them.
You can also use the Best Buy recycling program. This one’s a little different than Staples.
They allow you to recycle up to three household items per day free of charge.
For a complete list of items they recycle, check here.
If you decide to recycle a printer with Best Buy, you’ll get 15% off select HP printers.
This is a good deal; however, it only applies to select printers. In case these select printers don’t work for you, you won’t be able to use the discount.
Best Buy's drawback is that they charge a fee to pick- up and haul your printer.
Another option for printer recycling is municipality waste centers.
Many municipalities have their own recycling programs. For example, in 2003, California adopted the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, which established the Covered Electronic Waste (CEW) Recycling Program.
The Act and the CEW have collected over 2.3 billion pounds of electronic products.
But, because the electronic waste stream is getting bigger and more problematic, CalRecycle has a long-term initiative for different electronics recycling possibilities.
If you’re unsure if your municipality has one too, check the local website or give them a call.
We all know the saying “one man's trash is another man’s treasure.” This goes for printers too.
If your old printer is still working, you can donate it to a local community center, school, recreation center, senior center, charity, or a nonprofit.
You can also donate your old printer to organizations that help those in need.
Here's the details,
Even if your printer doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t mean you can’t donate it. There are many charities and nonprofits out there that sell non-working electronics.
GreenCitizen was founded in 2005 with the goal to reverse the damage done to our environment. In this 16 years of journey, we have served responsible citizens and businesses to recycle their old electronics.
This image should help you put our efforts in perspective.
If you’re a business in the San Francisco bay area, GreenCitizen offers electronic recycling pick-up. Upon your request, our team will reach your business location and pick-up your old or broken printers. Then, we'll take it back to our Burlingame Eco-Center.
GreenCitizen accepts a plethora of office electronics for recycling.
Here’s what to do before the pick-up:
Here’s what happens when the GreenCitizen team arrives:
GreenCitizen offers responsible and local recycling services if you’re an individual in the SF bay area. This is a really convenient idea who lives within the 35 mile radius of our Burlingame Eco-Center.
Choose any time for a drive-through drop-off Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. Apart from you printers, you can also recycle other electronics properly with GreenCitizen.
As printer is a low value recycling item, we charge $5 per printer for recycling.
Our address is — 1831 Bayshore HWY, Suite 2, Burlingame, CA 94010 USA.
Here’s how drop-off works:
Even if you don’t live in the San Francisco bay area, GreenCitizen also has you covered.
You can choose the mail-in electronics option and mail your old or broken printers.
Here’s how it works:
GreenCitizen also has an easy-to-navigate Green Directory. It can help you find the best solution for your printer recycling needs.
Simply type what you are searching for, your location, and choose the distance from you.
The Green Directory will show you a list of services in your area.
As simple as that!
I’ve talked about how to recycle a printer. But, you should also recycle toner and recycle ink cartridges.
It’s estimated that more than 500 million cartridges are sold yearly in the US. About 350 million are sent to landfills, which is more than half.
Printer ink cartridges have toxic substances and are made of a combination of plastic, foam, metal, ink, and toner. This means it can’t easily be separated.
Because they contain toxic chemicals, they can contaminate groundwater and soil if thrown in a landfill. Ink cartridges also can’t be burned because they’ll release harmful chemicals that can pollute the atmosphere.
Many states have laws against their disposal. In fact, you could be fined for throwing out ink cartridges.
Luckily, ink cartridges can be recycled.
You can take help from GreenCitizen for toner and ink cartridge recycling too.
Otherwise, you can choose any of the following ways to do printer cartridge recycling.
You can recycle directly with the printer and cartridge manufacturers, as many of them have free take-back programs.
Some manufacturers even offer to cover the postage expenses.
Apart from manufacturer lead programs, you can recycle ink and toner in different ways:
Before we talk about why recyclers charge money for printer recycling, let’s talk about printer parts.
Printer parts include:
Printer parts are mostly plastic, metal hardware, and copper, which isn’t valuable.
Recycling centers have to charge money for printer recycling for several reasons.
Printers don’t have many or any valuable parts inside. This means the recyclers can’t sell the parts, so there’s no way to cover the recycling cost.
Expensive machinery and labor force are used to recycle a printer. All of this takes money, and because printer parts aren’t valuable, e-waste recycling centers have to charge the customers money.
Yes, Best Buy recycles printers and ink cartridges for free.
Yes, OfficeMax recycles printers.
Yes, you can trade your old printer. Several manufacturers and retailers, such as HP and Staples, have trade-in programs.
No, Home Depot doesn’t recycle electronic waste.
Stores such as Office Depot and Staples will give you $2 in-store credit. You can recycle up to 20 cartridges a month with them. You can also sell ink cartridges online.
Yes, old printers can be valuable. You can sell them online or sell parts to someone who needs replacement parts.
Yes, printers can have a memory of what’s printed, which is why you should have a recycler delete the stored data for you.
I hope you found this printer recycling guide useful.
Printer recycling is necessary for several reasons, such as to avoid getting a fine or to stop electronics from polluting the environment.
How you recycle your printer is up to you — choose if you want to donate, resell, or contact an e-waste recycling service such as GreenCitizen.
I’d love to hear about your experience with printer recycling. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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