Making history, not waste: recycling cartridges

by Corporate Waste Solutions
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Over the last year Australians have made history by recycling a record 13,500 used printer cartridges every working day, making it the biggest year ever since the launch of the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program 14 years ago.

In total, over 3.5 million cartridges were returned for recycling or remanufacture, which is equivalent to 386 bathtubs of cartridges returned every working day, or six backyard swimming pools every week!


The commitment demonstrated by the program’s partners is the key to its success. Collaboration has enabled an extensive collection network and processing infrastructure to be built, making it easy for households and workplaces to recycle their cartridges, which is clearly reflected in the program’s achievements.

The participating cartridge manufacturers Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera are taking responsibility for the cartridges they produce. Collectively, they have helped Australians divert over 34 million cartridges from landfill, which is equivalent to over 14,500 tonnes of materials, since the product stewardship program began in 2003.


Innovation is critical in a circular economy and it’s an area in which program resource recovery partner, Close the Loop, is a leader. Established in Australia, it also operates in the US, Canada, New Zealand and now Europe, making it the world’s largest resource recovery company for printer cartridges and imaging consumables. In 2016, it was inducted into the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame, with its commitment to ‘zero waste to landfill’ and innovation no doubt key factors.

A great example of Close the Loop’s innovative approach is the recent launch of a new product, Tonerseal, a world-first spray seal binder for roads, which contains over 20 percent recycled waste toner and used tyre rubber. Just one kilometre of Tonerseal uses 6400 cartridges and 145 tyres.

To date approximately 900 kilometres of Australian roads have been surfaced with Tonerseal or TonerPave (a low-carbon, high-performance asphalt made with recycled toner), which is longer than driving from Melbourne to Sydney. Recently Australia Zoo also chose to lay 250 tonnes of TonerPave as part of a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.

In addition, cartridges are recycled into pens (which can then be recycled via ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’), rulers and eWood garden beds, sleepers and planks.

Cartridge manufacturers are also implementing a range of other innovative changes to their cartridges and equipment to reduce waste. These include using recycled plastic in their production, adding extra-large print tanks to extend their life and developing technology to monitor and balance usage across all colours.

Changes to toner chemistry also allow for quality printing with lower energy use. More and more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are designing products with the end of life in mind.

© Planet Ark

© Planet Ark


In many other countries, such as the US, cartridge manufacturers have their own take-back schemes that will accept the cartridges that they manufactured. There are post-back as well as retail drop-off recycling programs.
In the UK, there are several schemes, including some where you pay for the collection. However, there is no product stewardship collaboration like ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ – a single program that allows for a simple message of how to easily recycle your printer cartridges for free.


Any business or workplace that uses more than three printer cartridges a month may be eligible for a free collection box. That includes offices, factories, schools, libraries, hotels, hospitals and more. Consumers can access a free network of 4000 ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ public recycling collection boxes around the country, located at all Officeworks stores and participating Australia Post, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and Office National outlets.
To register for a free box or to find your nearest retail drop-o location, visit

Our plans now are for an even bigger year of cartridge recycling with the overall recycling target of 37 million cartridges by March 2018, giving new life and value to what would otherwise be a waste.

Lead image: Piotr Adamowicz ©

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