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Do Your Part: Turn used ink cartridges into money

By Terri Bennett

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Saturday, Aug. 14 2010 1:33 p.m. MDT

Recycling or remanufacturing ink and toner cartridges is becoming a big business.

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Did you know that Americans use hundreds of millions of ink and toner cartridges for printers every year? And, estimates are that 70 percent of those are being sent straight to our landfills. This is enormously wasteful and unnecessary. These predominately plastic containers filled with ink are easily refilled or recycled. In fact, there are now a number of places that will actually pay you to recycle your used ink and toner cartridges.

Most cartridges are made of plastic, a by-product of oil, but recycling them often involves little more than taking them apart, replacing any damaged parts, refilling and testing them. It's clear that it is cheaper for manufacturers to refurbish these parts rather than pay for a new one. This creates savings for them that are passed on to you and me, the consumers.

Today, recycling or remanufacturing ink and toner cartridges is becoming a big business. So much so, many companies are paying anywhere from a few cents up to $20 or more for your used cartridges. At DoYourPart.com/Columns you will find a number of online sources that will pay for used cartridges. They'll even provide a pre-paid shipping label. This is great fundraising opportunity for small groups or schools and includes an eco-friendly lesson about recycling.

If you would rather trade in your cartridges and toners in person, Office Max, Staples and Office Depot will give you the equivalent of a $3 store credit for every accepted cartridge you recycle. You must belong to the retailers' rewards program to earn cash and there are limits to how many and how often you can bring in cartridges for money.

For the consumer looking to buy ink or toner cartridges, going with refilled or recycled cartridges cost 30 to 70 percent less than new. You will want to buy from a reputable retailer to ensure a quality product and you'll also want to make sure that using recycled cartridges won't affect the warranty on your printer. I recently discovered an online source that not only offers a warranty and free standard U.S. shipping, they also make a donation of $2 to $5 to help save homeless pets for every cartridge purchased. You can learn more at RecyclingForPets.com

Throwing used printer cartridges in the trash is almost like throwing money out the window. Refilling and recycling these items is another way to Do Your Part to reduce your eco-footprint and save some green in your wallet.

Terri Bennett is an Earth scientist, syndicated columnist and mom. Send questions to terridoyourpart.com. Get more everyday green living tips at www.DoYourPart.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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