Recycle Ink Cartridges, The Rise and Fall of a Circular Economy

Recycle Ink Cartridges, The Rise and Fall of a Circular Economy

Eric Sherman
Ink & Toner Circular Economy

In 1976, the inkjet printer was invented but it took until 1988 for the inkjet to become a household item when HP released the DeskJet printer. From there, companies such as Canon, Epson, Lexmark, and Brother started to make affordable printers for homes and offices. This multibillion-dollar industry was built on the selling of consumable printer cartridges to the tune of 1.6 billion printer cartridges sold a year. 

Unfortunately, the success of the desktop printer had a bad side effect on the environment. Ink and toner cartridges created a huge plastic waste issue with printer cartridges ending up in our landfills. It can take 1,000 years for a single cartridge to decompose leaching toxins into the soil and groundwater. 

This new waste issue gave rise to a whole new industry of ink and toner remanufacturing. These remanufacturers made up a new circular economy that could sustain itself. Printer cartridges that were once being thrown away could now be recycled for reuse at a lower cost to the consumer. 

Empty or used printer cartridges had value. Companies like Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy started to take in used ink for recycling because it was good for their bottom line. They designed rewards programs to draw customers into the store to buy more OEM inks at a higher price point and sell the used ink cartridges to recyclers who in turn sold them to remanufacturers. 

Ink resellers, like Cartridge World, started popping up refilling or selling remanufactured inks at lower prices compared to the OEM printer cartridges. The circular economy of ink and toner cartridges was booming while at the same time keeping toxic plastics out of landfills.

In early 2000, overseas manufacturers began to introduce clone or generic printer cartridges into the market. Clone cartridges are just newly created copies of OEM cartridges. This gave rise to lawsuits from the OEMs for patent and trademark infringements, but it didn’t stop the flow of these cartridges from entering the U.S. market.  

Overseas manufacturers started to promote their printer cartridges as compatible, remanufactured, or generic ink and toner cartridges. These cartridges are made with cheaper materials with very little quality control. As of June 2021, RT News had reported the Netherlands was banning printer cartridges from China because of toxic materials found in the product. 

In the United States, there is no real oversight on imported printer cartridges. As compatible ink and toners flood the U.S. market at lower prices through online retailers such as Amazon and Ebay, they devalue many used OEM cartridges that were once being recycled.

Overseas compatible printer cartridges are basically single-use plastics that can’t be remanufactured or refilled. Unlike OEM cartridges, there are no standards for clone, compatible, generic cartridges. It is cost-prohibitive to have a remanufacturing process for multiple manufacturers of a cartridge or illegal, because it infringes on intellectual property of the original equipment manufacturers.

Broken Ink and Toner Economy

The once-booming circular economy of ink and toner that prevented plastics from entering our landfills is near extinction. The U.S. is now facing a rapidly growing waste issue again, but this time it is because overseas manufacturers are flooding nonrecyclable printer cartridges into the country.

What can consumers do? Stop buying compatible or generic ink and toner cartridges. These cartridges are just polluting our country, destroying U.S. businesses, and jobs. If you want to save on price, and close the recycling loop on original equipment manufactured cartridges, buy U.S. remanufactured printer cartridges, such as DoorStepInk. 

Remanufactured in the U.S. using only originally manufactured cartridges from HP, Canon, Epson, Dell, Brother, Lexmark, Collins, and Roland, DoorStepInk cartridges are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. 

Plus, DoorStepInk will recycle your used printer cartridges, through their free mail-in recycling service.  Visit for details. 

As a thank you for reading this story, receive 20% OFF on your purchase of DoorStepInk remanufactured in the USA Cartridges. Use promo code DRS20 at checkout.

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