Refill your empty printer cartridge
Printer cartridges can be pricey. And if you don't take your old one in when getting a new one, it's darn near impossible to pick it out of the sea of options behind the counter at (insert big box office supply store of your choice).
But what if you took your printer cartridge in to be refilled? It's a win-win situation, according to ECO Cartridge Store owner, Vic Swan. Win: You save money. By having your cartridge refilled you can save at least 40%. Win: That old cartridge stays out of landfills. A good thing, considering some printer cartridges are made out of industrial grade plastics that take a long, long time to decompose.
Swan's ECO Cartridge Store was the first to open on Seattle's eastside in July of 2005. There are now other refill stores popping up around the area, but those are mainly franchised. By owning his own store, Swan says it gives him the flexibility to better serve the community and meet the needs of his local clients. He says business has been pretty good and he's even thinking about opening up more ECO Cartridge Stores.
One of the main challenges in this business though is the very thing they're dependent on - the printer cartridge manufacturers themselves. For obvious reasons (they sell less new printer cartridges) manufacturers don't like these type of stores. In addition to pushing legislation and regulations designed to hurt the refilling stores, manufacturers have started putting microchips in each cartridge. The purpose of the chip is to make the cartridge think it's empty even if it has been filled with new ink. ECO Cartridge Store employee, Dominic, showed me a chip resetter, a small, hand held device that is placed over the chip to 'reset' it into thinking it is full. However, companies like Canon, one of the more eco-frinedly manufacturers, have begun making a chip that isn't easily reset. Now the race is on for a new chip resetter, apparently a company in the UK has the lead so far. (A note on Canon - according to their website, they boast a 100% recovery rate on all toner and ink cartridges.)
To the manufacturers credit, many do offer cartridge recycling services, such as Lexmark, where you can request a mailing envelope from the company and send your used cartridge back at their expense. However, where all the empty cartridges end up after that is not so openly disclosed. (I called Lexmark to find out what happens with the collected cartridges. After holding a few minutes with tech support, the call center representative told me there is no other number available that I can call. I would have to write a letter to one of the addresses listed on the website for an answer.)
So until I hear back from Lexmark, I'll assume all those empty plastic cartridges are destined for landfills in some form or another. In which case I think refilling the cartridge is probably the best way to go. Especially since the quality and performance of the refilled cartridge is exactly the same as buying a new one. At ECO Cartridge Store, Swan uses over 100 different types of ink to match the original equipment manufacturers and tests every cartridge before it leaves the store. And with 100% satisfaction guarantee, how can you go wrong?