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How to Recycle Toner Cartridges Responsibly
June 4, 2019
As anyone who uses and replaces printer toner cartridges knows, it can be tempting to throw them away when they’re empty. The thing is, toner cartridge recycling is a more responsible, sustainable way to deal with your empties, and it’s easier to do than ever before.
You can recycle them by:
- Dropping them off at a retailer
- Sending them through the mail
- Working with a nonprofit that recycles for you
Whether you’re concerned with HP toner cartridge recycling or have another product to unload, HP’s recycling program is free, efficient, and good for the planet.
Why you should recycle
The idea of laser toner cartridge recycling sounds like it has benefits for our ecosystem, but what’s the harm if you don’t participate? Well, throwing empty toner or ink cartridges into the trash means they go into the landfill, a practice that’s becoming a problem for our planet.
The stats are sobering, and according to National Geographic , only 9% of plastics are actually being recycled. It takes more than 400 years to break these materials down and only 12% is incinerated, making the potential for a plastic crisis a reality.
Doing nothing could worsen the problem of the 8 million metric tons of plastic that get into our waterways each year, so taking small steps now is necessary. And it can start with what you buy and how you deal with your trash.
HP® has taken the initiative to do something about these staggering numbers. One way is through the toner recycling program, part of the HP Planet Partners Initiative. Anyone who buys HP or Samsung-branded toner products has an easy way to be a part of positive change. The best part? It's free!
Where to recycle toner cartridges
Whether you order your toner online from HP directly, through an HP online retail partner, or from an in-store retailer, it’s incredibly easy to recycle when done. Currently, HP® partners with 16,500 sites across the globe to take HP and Samsung-branded printing products back from consumers when they’re empty.
The HP Planet Partners Program is simple to use. Here’s how to do it where you live:
1. Recycle in-store
Retailers participating in the free drop-off program for HP and Samsung toner products include Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, and Best Buy. To be sure that the retailer nearest you is an authorized collection location, visit the retailer locator and then click “Drop it off” to find your store from the list.
Once in the store, you should see drop off location areas near where the toner is sold, or you can inquire at the customer service desk. While you won't get cash or credit for turning in your empty toner products, you are doing your part to help the planet and reduce waste in our landfills and waterways.
2. Mail in your empties
To recycle laser toner cartridges by mail, check the packaging that your toner cartridge came in because there should be a mailable envelope enclosed. If you don't see one, go to the HP recycling page, click "Recycle," and then choose your country. Click your product type and "Send in to HP."
You’ll be asked if you want to print your shipping materials or order materials to be sent to your home or business. If you have a large amount of toner to recycle, you can also select pallet pickup. Indicate what product you are returning, the number of envelopes or boxes you need, and click “order.”
You will be given a form to provide your contact and mailing info. You’ll then receive postage-paid mailing materials for you to put your empty toner cartridges in to send at your convenience.
If you do not have access to the internet, you can also call for supplies. You can reach the recycling team at 1-800-340-2445 from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, to request free boxes or envelopes. The HP Planet Partners team center is closed on major U.S. holidays.
To properly ship a toner cartridge, HP® recommends that you tape 2-8 supply boxes together and use one prepaid shipping label printed from the website to send them back. You can also use your own suitable, sturdy box. Just be sure to keep the weight under 70 lbs.
Large businesses with a pallet’s worth of empties or more are asked to call and request a pallet pickup.
3. Use recycling toner collection units
Another component of responsible printing is proper handling of the toner collection unit (TCU), also known as “collection kits.” These can be returned only with toner cartridges, but they are recyclable. It also allows you to recycle other toner consumable components, including fuser kits and transfer kits. This option is available only to large enterprise customers at this time.
To access your TCU safely and to recycle through the HP program:
1. Open your printer’s front door and release the latches
2. Remove the TCU, being careful of any toner dust that may be covering it
3. Carefully place the full TCU into the HP-provided plastic bag that came with the TCU replacement
4. Put the sealed bag into the HP Planet Partners Program collection kit box for shipment with your next batch of used toner cartridges
Are all HP printing products recyclable?
Unfortunately, not every HP product may be recycled through the program. While HP Planet Partners covers many items, there are some that may not be returned for inclusion in the recycling process.
These include discontinued or non-supported HP products and printing products made by companies other than Samsung or HP®. If your printing empty isn’t returnable through the formal HP program, check with your local waste service or recycling program to see if they accept these on a local level.
HP® takes more than printing supplies. They can accept some printers, computers, and other hardware items through their various used products program. Your old equipment may be worth credit for future products, too. Some items can be donated to benefit select charities as chosen by HP®. Learn more at their returnable products page.
HP inkjet recycling options
These solutions work for toner products, sure, but what if you use an inkjet printer? The good news is that ink cartridges are accepted as well. There is also one additional method of recycling ink cartridges.
Do you already subscribe to the popular and economical HP Instant Ink program? In addition to saving money on printing, you can benefit from the easy environmental perks of the program. Recycling is a natural part of the subscription plan.
Under the terms of HP Instant Ink, the ink cartridges sent to you from HP® are considered the company’s property. It is expected that you return them when you are done with them or when you end your HP Instant Ink subscription. The program makes it easy to do so - just put your empty cartridges in the postage-paid, addressed plastic envelopes that come in each box of new ink.
HP® asks that you wait until you have three to eight empty cartridges before mailing a return envelope. The number you can fit into the envelope depends on the size and type of ink you use. You don't have to spend an extra penny to recycle through the program.
The difference made by recycling
While recycling printing supplies can have a positive effect on the planet, many people aren’t aware of just how much has been diverted from landfills. HP® has reused more than 199 million pounds of recycled plastics in its products since 2000. This is the equivalent of 5,000 trucks loaded with plastic that didn’t go into our waterways or landfills.
In 2017 alone, HP® recycled 14,800 tons of toner cartridges and 1,500 tons of ink cartridges. This is made possible by consumers who take the time to return their ink and toner products to HP® or partner retailers for responsible disposal.
The environmental impact is just one way recycling does good. HP® has partnered with communities around the world to support local economies and bring about positive change. HP® has also partnered with nonprofits to give those living in storm-ravaged Haiti a chance to turn plastic bottle trash into resources.
Through the program, locals can collect bottles that then get turned into future HP printing products while they earn cash for their communities. Teams there are also offering scholarships to local children, equipping families to start small businesses, and implementing safer collection practices.
How HP is different
You probably don't think twice about dropping off your used printer cartridge into a recycling bin. How confident are you that your empties will be used responsibly? Not all companies who accept their toner cartridges back are doing the right things with them.
You may have seen websites or companies who offer to take your toner cartridges or even pay you cash for them. What happens to these empties after the company gets them? Unless it’s an HP® partner, there’s no guarantee that the plastic in their products is being used.
Companies that are not authorized by HP® may try to sell ink or toner products that they call “recycled,” but it may not actually be recycling. HP® stands by its products, using pieces of plastic from old ink and toner cartridges as some of the plastic in the new ones. This is true recycling.
None of the cartridges returned or recycled to HP® through consumers ever go to a landfill. They get sorted, shredded, and separated. Trace amounts of ink or filler components are disposed of sustainably. Small bits of metal and other plastics get turned into items other than just printing goods. The cartridges you recycle become part of trays, the soles of shoes, and other things we buy and use every day.
What is “remanufacturing”?
Other companies may only be doing something called "remanufacturing." This is taking the original plastic toner pieces, disassembling, cleaning, and rebuilding them, before refilling and selling them as new. They are not guaranteed to work as authentic HP products and may void the warranty on your printer if they cause damage.
Another way companies may try to sell printing products is by refilling them. In this situation, they do even less than with remanufacturing. They merely add new ink or toner before selling them back to the consumer.
The only way to ensure that you get a flawless printing experience for your HP printer is by purchasing genuine HP printer ink and toner. You get a new product every time, with the benefit that the plastic components of your product have been made with plastic that was responsibly sourced.
How recycling benefits charitable work
Maybe you’ve heard that you can recycle toner cartridges for cash. While there isn’t a streamlined way to sell back your cartridges in a very profitable way, HP® does make it simple to give back. Every time you buy an authentic HP printing product, you are committing to the programs that HP® supports.
Be aware of outside programs that promise to recycle your empties for charity. These products may or may not actually be recycled. To ensure that your empty product stays out of a landfill, use HP-approved programs for your HP ink and toner products.
Sustainable printing creates positive change
Compared to other recycling programs that may not turn old cartridges into a new one, HP® has mastered the art of the "closed loop." According to our stats, more than 80% of our ink cartridges and 100% of HP LaserJet toner cartridges are made with recycled plastic from their own products. In addition to using empty ink products when making new ones, we use more than half a million pounds of ocean-bound plastic in the process, too.
Returning your cartridges for recycling is one way to make a positive environmental impact. By purchasing new, authentic HP printing supplies, you help keep other kinds of waste from being disposed of improperly as well.
The next time someone asks, “Can you recycle toner cartridges?” your answer can be “yes!” While recycling varies by brand, HP® has made it our mission to put less post-consumer materials into the landfill. Your decision to create less waste begins when you purchase genuine HP ink and toner products and follow the guidelines for recycling them.
 National Geographic; A whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.