How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program

Australian retailer CartridgesDirect launches free ‘At Home’ ink cartridge recycling program

Australia’s largest online retailer of Original Ink Printer Cartridges, CartridgesDirect, is on a mission to ensure that 100% of all supplied original ink cartridges are ethically recycled. In partnership with Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, for every 100,000 ink cartridges that are recycled through this program we can collectively cleanse the earth of 40 tons of reusable plastic, 1 million litres of wasted oil, 9,569 kgs or reusable aluminium and 862 million kgs of Co2 emissions. 

We interviewed Simon Williams, founder of Cartridges Direct, to find out more. As first hand witness to a lack of proactivity in this space, Simon has taken it upon himself to make a difference. You have likely switched to ethical solutions for everyday products such as soaps, water bottles and reusable bags. Now is the time to consider lesser-advertised recyclable goods such as ink cartridges. Recycling printer cartridges has never been easier.

Welcome Simon. Firstly, we would love to hear a bit more about your background and how you started CartridgesDirect.

Thank you, Maxime, it’s a pleasure to be here. I have been involved with printer cartridges for nearly 30 years. In the beginning, laser printers were new technology and inkjet printers were a few years away from release. In my early career, I started with a company remanufacturing toner cartridges. It was a relatively small industry but growing at a fast rate. Before long, I was headhunted to the UK and operated all over Europe. The international experience was fascinating and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

After a few years, I returned to Australia and started my own toner printer remanufacturing company called ECS (Environmental Cartridge Solutions). It was a small operation and although I wanted to recycle each part that had been replaced, nobody was interested in the quantities that I could supply. It was at this point I realised that nearly all the companies remanufacturing, refilling and reinking cartridges were disposing of old parts at the local tip. There was simply not a clear way for small quantities to be ethically recycled. 

How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program
Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

I decided this was not what I wanted as a future for my family so I moved into bricks and mortar retailing with a shop in Dandenong, Victoria. With the digital revolution in full swing, it wasn’t long before I made the decision to navigate away from bricks and mortar and shifted CartridgesDirect to an online-only business. By this time, inkjet printers were also very popular home office printing solutions and this became my focal point. 

From here, CartridgesDirect has grown to become one of the largest online original ink printer cartridge retailers in Australia. We now have a platform to make positive change on a much larger scale. Not only can we now fix the problems I stumbled across with ECS, we can also spread greater awareness about the devastating impacts ink cartridges have when dumped into landfill. It’s a very exciting time for our organisation.

That’s some journey. Now, you have mentioned that you only sell ‘Original Ink Printer Cartridges’. Why is that and what does that mean?  

That is a very good question. There is a huge difference. Original Ink Printer Cartridges are cartridges that are branded the same as the printer they match. They are engineered and guaranteed by the manufacturer to work with that printer. In the unlikely event that an Original Ink Printer Cartridge should fail (or even worse, damage your printer) then the cartridge would be replaced free of charge. 

All Original Ink Printer Cartridges are tested by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to produce a set number of pages of a set quality. They are guaranteed to meet that standard. An Original Ink Printer Cartridge is the result of long term research to continually improve the quality of your printing to an even higher level. 

The environment is the most precious thing we have and Original Ink Printer Cartridges are environmentally sound because they not only incorporate a Product Stewardship Program but also use a high level of recycled materials. This reduces our reliance on the diminishing supply of new raw materials. In addition, OEM cartridges significantly reduce the carbon gases produced and the energy used in processing new materials. 

Conversely, generic printer cartridges have little to no guarantee. If they fail they could be swapped over if you’re lucky, however, your printer wouldn’t be covered and worst yet, the printer manufacturer may void your warranty should they deem the cartridge damaged the printer. This is very likely to happen when most inks used in generic cartridges are not tested properly and have even been proven to damage the print heads in your printer. In fact, HP recently commissioned a report into generic cartridges and Original Ink Printer Cartridges and they found that over 40% of inks tested failed out of the box. You can find out more about the tests conducted here.

Because generic printer cartridges have no Product Stewardship Program, they can only be consigned to landfill with all the long term environmental damage that causes. The generic cartridge manufacturers also use new raw materials resulting in higher pollution levels and depletion of nonrenewable resources. It’s a cost cutting exercise to undercut quality products; but at the detriment of earth as always.

How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program

That said, we are currently working on a program that enables the ethical recycling of non-genuine ink cartridges. However, this will be a much longer road as it is not supported at the moment. The moment we can achieve this, it will be incredible for the industry. So, watch this space!

Overall, an Original Ink Printer Cartridge is a far better choice for the customer. CartridgesDirect care about our customers over a broad spectrum and even when we can recycle non-genuine ink cartridges, we will still advocate genuine ink. From free advice and expert printing guides to offering free returns should a cartridge fail, we pride ourselves on the support that we provide to our customers.

Wow, I had no idea there was such a difference. Can you tell us about what fuelled you to offer free Original Ink Printer Cartridge recycling for your customers?

Despite the compelling damage cartridges wreak on our earth when dumped into landfill, customer service, satisfaction and convenience have always been imperative for our business. It has proven to be an award winning formula for us both nationally and internationally. But more importantly, it has led to an ever growing number of customers who expect, and appreciate, the best quality products delivered in the shortest possible time. This level of care extends to how end-of-life products are handled.

When speaking with customers, a growing number would inform us that empty cartridges would be stowed away within a drawer or box and kept until an opportunity arose to take them to a collection point. Given that collection points are not always that close to our customers homes, cartridges were often forgotten about. Sadly good intentions do not always outweigh bad memories and printer cartridges would stay within the drawer for years. When stumbled upon, customers would sometimes go to a collection point. However, more often than not, the cartridges would simply get thrown out. 

Combining this understanding with my prior experience at ECS, I learned two things. Firstly, more and more people are concerned about the environmental impact they as an individual, and all of us as a society, are having. Secondly, despite many years down the road from ECS, there still was not a simplistic way for consumers to recycle cartridges at home. With Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and Close The Loop full steam ahead with business and toner cartridge recycling, there was still a large void in the market for home printing. 

How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program

So, it was time to fix this issue. 

With more people now working from home (and the future of working-from-home looking more promising) we were immediately aware that the numbers of original ink printer cartridges being recycled by home and small business users could be increased if there was an easier way to collect them. If you study from a university or are a member of a large organisation, there is likely to be a collection box within your building. However, when at home, there was no such program readily available. 

Our free ink cartridge recycling program overcomes this by making the collection point only a few metres from everyone’s home. There is no need to store empty cartridges within your drawer anymore. You can get them out of the desk drawer and put to good use going forward. Since 2003, 46 million printer cartridges have been recycled. While impressive, over 70% of all printer cartridges sold throughout Australia are still thrown into landfill. There is obviously room for significant improvement here.

Cartridges 4 Planet Ark who successfully run the existing collection service have set a target of 49 million in March 2021. That’s a big increase. We are looking to assist C4PA in reaching this goal by ensuring our customers have access to a very easy way to get their Original Ink Printer Cartridges recycled. From awareness to home recycling guides, we’re doing all that we can to make recycling printer cartridges a positive habit with a positive experience.

What is the mission for this scheme and the positive change you want to create?

We know that many people want to do everything they can to preserve the environment for future generations. However, we also know that doing the right thing is often not always accessible. The right information is sometimes hard to find and doing good is not always at the top of mind with everyday life. As such, the easier recycling ink cartridges becomes, the more proactive people will be with positive change.

With our free ink cartridge recycling program we’re encouraging our customers to make use of our simple program to ensure original ink printer cartridges come out of the hiding places and are ethically recycled. When our customers purchase Original Ink Printer Cartridges they will receive a postage paid satchel addressed to Close The Loop in Melbourne. This is where all OEM cartridges are recycled and every part is reapplied for new use. When our customers have at least eight Original Ink Cartridges in the satchel, all they have to do next is simply seal the satchel and drop off at any Australia Post Mailing Box. Job done. 

How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program

Conscience clear; as well as the drawer. 

Our customers can make a positive contribution to the environment in a very simple way. There is virtually no effort but the result is significant as the recycled printer cartridges are used in road surfacing, outdoor furniture, raised flower beds, pens, rulers and even new Original Printer Cartridges to name just a few. We want our customers to embrace positive change and become excited by the prospect of closing the loop and protecting the earth. Making recycling simple for our customers is just the beginning.

Are there any steps that you encourage customers to follow when using the scheme?

Most of our customers, along with most of the population, are very environmentally conscious. They expect companies they deal with to have as small a carbon footprint as possible. We have done everything we can to minimise the impact on the environment of the products we sell. All the products we sell, as well as all the packaging we use, are fully recyclable. 

This extends to our free recycling program as the satchel is, of course, fully recyclable. 

To take the carbon footprint to the lowest possible level we ask our customers to fill the satchel with at least eight empty Original Ink Cartridges. After all, the same amount of pollutants are created collecting only two cartridges as collecting eight or more Original Ink Cartridges. As such, the more you can fill the satchel with, the greater the positive impact. 

Of course, that’s understandable. Is the free recycle scheme a partnership with other companies or solely your own venture?

Our free Home Collection Service has the support of Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and all Original Printer Cartridge manufacturers. We have devised and offer this program as a service to our customers and to the planet. With the support of manufacturers and the population of Australia, we can make huge waves through ensuring awareness and education that easy to use programs like this exist. It’s really quite simple.

How to recycle ink cartridges with this free program

What challenges have you faced with the program?

The major challenge has been in devising a methodology that gives maximum benefits to all participants. To achieve this objective we have asked our customers to put a minimum of eight Original Printer Cartridges in the satchel. Any less than that and the costs become too great for the project to be viable. The cost of recycling is one of the biggest challenges that most companies face. By keeping everything free for our consumers, all costs are incurred by our business. Therefore, the more we can collect within a single satchel, the greater the budget we can assign to awareness and delivery of this service.

Any advice you would like to give consumers wanting to make a difference and be eco-friendly? 

Our biggest piece of advice when it comes to being eco-friendly is just go for it! The more environmental programs that are put into place the greater the benefits to the planet and future generations. Recycling is one of the best all round feel good activities you can do. Sometimes, I think we can overcomplicate things in our own heads. However, in reality, the smallest of changes we make can have significant positive impacts over time. Everyone feels good participating in a project with environmental benefits. We all benefit if we consider the environment in our lives. For nearly all of us a healthier environment will be the greatest gift we can leave the generations to come. 

You are based in Melbourne, yet sell nationally. What do recycling programs look like in Melbourne? Is there positive change within the city?

Change will eventually come. Slowly, but surely. At a government level, both state and local, there are all sorts of plans in place such as further separating our recyclables at the household level. However, there’s not been a lot of activity. The ultimate responsibility is with each and every one of us to play our part.

When you look at COVID-19, from an environmental perspective, vast positive improvements to the quality of earth. With many people housebound for months upon end in Victoria, all waste has remained within the home. As such, littering has been reduced, there is far less smog in the air due to fewer cars on the road and the heart of Melbourne is starting to look brand new again. If we could see before and after photography of the city, I am confident it would be compelling. Of course, remaining housebound is not the solution, however, awareness and self-accountability is the solution here. This is why we are so passionate about spreading awareness about our own program.

Finally, where can we find you and what steps should we follow to join the program?

Taking part in our free ink cartridge recycling program is simple. Simply head on over to www.cartridgesdirect.com.au and use our part finder to find the right ink for your printer. Then, once ordered, we will deliver them to you (most likely the next day) together with a free ink cartridge recycling satchel. Once you have eight empty original printer cartridges, simply place them into the satchel, seal and drop off at your nearest red Australia post mailbox. Next time you’re out for a walk or a run, exercising the dog, going to the shops don’t forget to take your recycling satchel with you. Job done!

If you are looking for further information about our free ink cartridge recycling program, our monthly blogs on environmental issues, the importance of recycling ink printer cartridges and ways to get the best from a printer have been appreciated for many years. Although much stronger, there is still a huge lack of awareness in this space. As such, we’ve also made it our mission to advocate environmental solutions as much as possible.

You can find us also on Facebook @CartridgesDirect where we will often strike up conversations with our customers about recycling and our activities. We look forward to seeing you there soon!

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