An empty cartridge can be reused: some companies allow refilling them with ink. If each cartridge were recycled at least once, the volume of this type of waste would be reduced by half. The printer cartridge, therefore, represents a considerable challenge in terms of recycling:
– it contains very toxic substances (special industrial waste) for nature and human health: aluminum, non-biodegradable plastic, iron oxide, ink residues, etc.;
– it takes 3.5 liters of oil to manufacture a new laser ink cartridge;
– a standard cartridge contains plastic that takes 1,000 years to decompose.
Professionals: a dedicated collection service
An administration or a company consumes a lot of ink. To preserve the environment, it can call on a dedicated collection service. This one provides information sheets and containers and comes to recover the used cartridges.
Recycling of the cartridges of private individuals: several possibilities
Many solutions exist to get rid of used cartridges without throwing them in the trash:
– resale: you can earn money by selling your empty cartridges for a few euros (or new cartridges);
– deposit them in a container: contact the brand of your printer which organizes collections by mail;
– have them refilled in a specialized store;
– for a good cause, contact charitable associations specialized in collection and recycling.
Please note: associations often deposit their containers in commercial areas.
As of January 1, 2022, products placed on the household market and subject to the extended producer responsibility (EPR) system, excluding household glass beverage containers, must be subject to mandatory and harmonized marking. The signage is twofold: informing the consumer that this product is subject to a sorting rule (Triman logo) and providing information on how to sort it.
Cartridge recycling: sorting, cleaning, testing, labeling
Several processing stages are necessary to recycle a printer cartridge. The collected used cartridge arrives at the processing center, where it is sorted and checked:
– if it can be recycled:
◦ it is completely emptied and cleaned (steam, ultra-sound, centrifuge);
◦ its tightness is checked;
◦ a new ink is injected;
◦ a new label is glued;
◦ it joins the market of new printer cartridges;
– if it cannot be recycled:
◦ it is cleaned thoroughly;
◦ its components are separated and processed according to the material;
◦ the recyclable materials are transformed into new raw materials;
◦ hazardous materials are segregated and treated with care;
◦ ultimate (non-recyclable) waste goes to the landfill.
Now, let’s talk about battery recycling. Battery recycling of heavy and toxic metals represents a considerable environmental challenge and therefore belongs to the category of waste to be treated with care.
A dangerous composition for man and his environment
A battery contains many heavy metals: mercury, zinc, lead, and cadmium. The pollution caused by these metals leads to environmental risks: a mercury battery contaminates 1 m3 of soil and 1,000 m3 of water for 50 years. These hazardous wastes have significant health risks: possible intoxications in case of ingestion (infected animals) or inhalation (atmospheric pollution), neurological disorders (old metal), and diseases of the nervous system, kidneys, etc.
Be careful! It would be best if you never kept a used battery in your possession.
Only 1 battery out of 10 is recycled
Unlike paper, wood, or cardboard, batteries cannot be recycled as is. The battery recycling process consists of isolating the materials to reuse them separately. But in Europe, only one battery out of ten is recycled, and the rest is thrown away in nature.
Legislation committed to public health
Limiting the discharge of batteries into the environment is a public health issue. Since 2006, Europe has imposed strict recycling standards on battery manufacturers. Therefore, new batteries contain fewer heavy metals, which encourages recycling.
Battery recycling issues: nature, energy, and jobs
Recycling batteries allows one to
- save human lives and protect public health from the dangers of mercury;
- preserve nature and the animals we eat;
- recover heavy metals without extracting them from natural resources;
- save the energy necessary for the production of heavy metals;
- protect the environment from the toxic waste needed for the manufacture of heavy metals;
- create jobs.
Battery recycling provides the essential raw material for industry. For instance, one ton of batteries yields 600 kg of ferromanganese (steel), zinc, slag, and mercury.
The battery box: a reflex to recycle your batteries
It would help if you never threw batteries away like an ordinary household waste. Battery boxes are small cardboard containers specially dedicated to the collection of batteries. You can find them in supermarkets, waste disposal centers, offices, and town halls.
Note: distributors (stores selling batteries) are legally obliged to recover used batteries.
Good to know: To consume better, you can opt for solar battery chargers if you live in a sunny region.
Battery recycling: from collection to processing
The batteries collected in the battery boxes go to the sorting center to be sorted and subjected to mechanical treatment, shredding, and chemical treatment: isolation of the components.
Each component recovered is then sold to the industry: plastic, metals, and chemical salts.