How to Recycle Toner Cartridges & Printer Supplies: A Guide for 2024

Submitted by Byanka Ramos on Wed, 01/24/2024 - 09:00
A person holds a laser printer toner cartridge


Have you decided to recycle your used toner cartridges in an eco-friendly way? If so, you might be wondering how to do it. Unlike water bottles or soda cans, toner cartridges require special handling as they are electronic waste. However, the good news is that recycling e-waste, including toner cartridges, has become more accessible in recent years thanks to the growing awareness of environmental issues. 

In the last few years, we at STPT have witnessed our customers show increased interest in sustainable printer options. Every year, millions of cartridges end up in landfills, releasing harmful heavy metals into the air and water. That's why individuals, companies, and organizations need to make recycling a part of their mission.  

Thankfully, in 2024, recycling toner cartridges and most printer supplies has never been easier, and many brands work to make it accessible and free of charge for anyone. To help you become a more responsible print user, we have created this article to share four ways to recycle toner cartridges and why it's essential.


What is a Toner Cartridge Made of?

A laser printer toner cartridge gets pulled apart

Laser toner cartridges are composed of steel, aluminum, and lots of plastic. In fact, 85 to 95 percent of a toner cartridge is plastic. To be more precise, they contain plastic polymer dust, a hazardous waste with the potential to contaminate our environment and water resources. Once they end up in landfills, these toner cartridge materials can cause severe air pollution, leading to breathing problems for humans.  

Even though the plastic nature of toner cartridges enables them to create high-quality prints, it is also one of their most significant drawbacks. A recent study reveals that only 20-30% of waste toner is ever recycled globally. Add to this the fact that it can take 500 to 1,000 years for just one cartridge to decompose, and the need to recycle these becomes even more urgent.

To learn how to print more sustainably, check out our blog on five steps to sustainable printing.


4 Ways to Recycle Toner Cartridges

Now that you know what's inside toner cartridges, let's go over four ways to dispose of them sustainably.

  1.  Manufacturer Programs: Xerox Green World Alliance

Most major printer manufacturers offer programs that make recycling their used toner cartridges easy for their customers. Xerox, for example, takes a proactive stance with its Xerox Green World Alliance take-back program, designed to address the staggering issue of discarded cartridges. According to Xerox, this program has prevented approximately 145 million pounds of waste from entering landfills. 

How It Works:

  1. Take-Backs: Xerox offers a comprehensive take-back list detailing supplies and parts eligible for return, covering everything from toner cartridges to various other printer components.
  2. Eco Box Order: Easily start recycling by ordering a free Eco Box from the Green World Alliance website.
  3. Fill and Ship: Upon receiving your Eco Box, fill it with used supplies and attach the prepaid shipping label.
  4. Pick-Up: Schedule a convenient UPS pick-up date here.

If your copier isn't Xerox-branded, consult your vendor for a potential take-back program. You can find a list of popular cartridge manufacturers and their take-back programs here.  

As a Xerox partner, we commend their efforts to combat climate change; read about the six ways Xerox is helping to combat climate change.

  1. Local Office Stores: Best Buy and Staples Take-Back Programs:

If you’d instead drop off your used printer toner cartridges at a nearby store, consider Best Buy and Staples’ take-back efforts. Like Xerox, both corporations want to provide alternative avenues for recycling copier/printer supplies.

Best Buy’s in-store electronics and appliance recycling program is found in all U.S. locations. Head to the customer service counter at your nearby store and drop off your depleted toner cartridges for free. Be aware, though, that there is a limit of 3 items per household daily.

Staples offers an ink and toner recycling program that is also free of charge and available in any of their stores. In addition to providing drop-off services in-store (with a limit of 7 items per customer per day), Staples also offers free prepaid shipping labels to customers who receive their toner cartridges via mail within the United States. After you package your empty laser toner cartridges, you can leave them in a designated location where a delivery driver will pick them up.  

Office supply store OfficeMax has also created its recycling program. However, you must be an enrolled member to earn rewards for recycling your toner cartridges.  

In addition to big retailers, some small shops have enacted recycling programs with varying incentives.  

  1. Local Community Recycling Sites

Local and city governments often have electronic recycling programs or are partnered with a national electronics recycling service, like United Electronic Recycling, to provide recycling to residents, businesses, and organizations.

Often, cities partner with local churches to host monthly events that encourage recycling and raise funds for sustainable education programs. Head to your local government site to find recycling locations and events near you. Alternatively, you can locate any recycling center near you by entering the Earth911 site and inputting your zip code.  

  1. Buy Recycled Toner Cartridges

Although OEM toner is the highest standard available, you can save money and contribute to less cartridge waste by buying remanufactured toner cartridges. Xerox offers the Everyday Toner cartridges, which aim to provide the highest quality toner at the lowest possible price. These toners are compatible with most major printer brands and can cost 40-60% less than the original manufactured toners.  

If you’d like to know more about toner variety, consider our blog on the four types of printer toners & how to choose them.


Recycling the Entire Machine: Sustainable Choices

Suppose you must dispose of other printer supplies or a copier/printer. In that case, it's also essential to make sustainable choices for these. In 2024, consider the following options:

  1. Donating:

Nonprofit organizations actively seek electronic donations, presenting an excellent opportunity to get your machine off your hands while helping someone in need. Dell, for example, has partnered with Goodwill to create the Reconnect program, which allows people to pack up used technology and donate it to a participating Goodwill near them.  

  1. Resale Sites:

Utilize platforms like eBay or Facebook Marketplace to resell a functioning copier/printer. Whether selling for profit or listing as 'free,' these sites offer quick solutions to find your machine a new home.

Important Note: Ensure you own your copier/printer units before attempting to sell or donate them.


Consider Leasing Your Printer Instead

Consider the eco-friendly leasing option to sidestep the challenges of finding a new home for your machine post-use. As opposed to purchasing a printer, leasing gives you the option to extend or return the machine to the vendor after the lease ends. Leasing allows you to enjoy a new machine's updated features while contributing to a healthier environment.


Take the Initiative, Recycle your Toner Cartridges

It's important to realize that the office items we throw away can significantly impact our environment. We could reach 74.7 million tons of accumulated e-waste as electrical waste grows by 2030. Therefore, we must combat this issue as soon as possible. 

Fortunately, there are options available to each one of us. Still, we need to be the ones to take the initiative. By recycling our toner cartridges and other printer supplies, we consciously take responsibility for our waste. Collectively, we can significantly affect the quality of life for ourselves and future generations.  

When it comes to printing there are a myriad of ways to incorporate recycling. STPT has decades of experience servicing various industries and can offer ample resources to start your journey to sustainable printing.

To see what printers offer top-notch sustainability options, check out our blog on the top four eco-friendly printers for small offices.

Are you on the hunt for more sustainable printer options? Contact us or click on the link below so one of our trained business consultants can discuss a printer solution that best fits your environmental needs.