Green Business Bureau Blog
Printer Ink: Virgin vs. Remanufactured
One item that people hate shopping for is the ink cartridge. Not only can it be complicated to find the right number/letter combination for your particular printer, but they are extremely expensive. Many people have stood in that dreaded ink cartridge aisle and wondered why a small amount of liquid has to cost so much. However, that conundrum is coming to an end now, and printer manufacturers are worried. A large portion of printer manufacture profit comes from the consumer purchasing more cartridges. However, an educated consumer can find ways to reuse their ink cartridges and avoid standing in that dreaded aisle.
Recycle and Be Green… or, Greener
There are several ways around purchasing new, or virgin, ink cartridges: remanufactured, commercially refilled and self-refilled. By reusing or recycling your ink cartridges, you keep the plastic casing out of landfills, making printing just a little bit more green. It is important to note, however, that the cartridge cannot be reused endlessly. On average, a cartridge can be refilled about four to six times before the printer head or electronic contacts are burnt out.
When it comes to printing at home or business, you have little choice but to buy those pesky printer cartridges to get your materials printed. But by purchasing refurbished cartridges you can at least know that you rescued this cartridge from a trash bin, rather than requiring a totally new one to be manufactured. Usually a remanufactured cartridge is a completely repackaged product that uses returned cartridge bodies. The cartridge will have had maintenance performed including cleaning, chip replacement and more, then tested for proper functioning.
These refurbished cartridges will save you a few dollars, but they can still be costly. Additionally, care must be taken when purchasing cartridges labeled as remanufactured or refurbished. Some companies may use questionable techniques to refill the cartridge, such as drilling a hole and filling the cartridge or splitting it in half and then clipping it back together. Both of these methods will reduce the efficiency and reliability of the cartridge and should be avoided whenever possible. Be sure to research the companies that sell refurbished products and check on the methods used.
Ink Refills are Us
If you would rather not purchase remanufactured cartridges, having your own used cartridges refilled is another option; there are companies, such as Walgreens, that will refill them for you while you shop. You can have your cartridge refilled three to five times for the same prices as buying a new cartridge. Unfortunately, since cartridges do have a limited number of times that they can be recycled, you will still find yourself making that dreaded turn down the cartridge aisle eventually, but much less often. With a little research you can be assured that your refilled ink cartridge will work as well, or even better, than a more expensive virgin cartridge; spend some time reading reviews of ink refilling services and ensure that you choose a company who has left a trail of happy customers. One note of caution, for most printers refilling your ink cartridges will void your printer warranty, so buyer beware. From an environmental standpoint, however, refilling is a great way to get five times as much use out of a cartridge before you throw it into a landfill.
Fill ‘Em Up on Your Own
If you want to save even more money, then the best way is to refill your ink cartridges on your own. Refill kits are cheap and you can fill six cartridges for the price of a single refill at some other company; that makes refilling your own cartridges about a tenth the price of buying them new, so you save green money and the green environment.
Refilling ink or toner cartridges yourself can be done, and it is less expensive than having a company do it, but it requires a steady hand and patience. Be sure to research how to refill the particular cartridge you have because you cannot just grab any needle and squirt ink into it. Different cartridges also use different styles of needles to get into the fill holes. Just as with purchasing remanufactured cartridges, you want to be sure to research where you buy refill kits from. They should include the proper sized needles, high quality ink, and instructions. Also, ensure that you choose inks that are non-toxic and safe to work with, while also working in a well ventilated area.