Empty Samsung toner cartridge? 3 responsible options in the UK

Reuse comes before recycling

We tend to get interested in "recycling" when we're lumbered with something that's useless, but we wouldn't want to see it floating in a nearby river (or sinking, for that matter).

Environmentally speaking, though, we should try to reuse before trying to recycle. If you want to prove that to yourself, just type "reduce reuse recycle" into Google and read a few of the pages that come up.

But why reuse before recycling?

In a word: energy. And producing energy ups the Carbon Footprint. (You'll have to give me the fact that the energy won't be 100% from wind farms, solar farms or nuclear power stations).

If we want to recycle something, energy will almost certainly be needed in some or all of these things we to need to do ....

collecting, sorting, transitory warehousing, transportation to recycling plant, recycling processes (such as melting, forming, mixing, filtering, re-pulping etc.), packaging of new "raw" materials, transportation to new manufacturing plant

emperor penguins

I favour conservation and animal rescue. Nominated charity schemes let you decide

Imagine sending your empty cartridge through all that and sitting around waiting for your recycled cartridge to come back from Korea! OK, a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you see the point.

The charity option

What? Children In Need can turn old plastic into gold?

No. But it turns out that there's a market for empty laser printer toner cartridges. Why?

Because there are companies - let's call them "commercial remanufacturers" - that want to get hold of those empty cartridges, refill them and sell them back to laser printer owners.

So if charities can get loads of empty laser printer cartridges for free and sell them to commercial remanufacturers, for say, 5 quid a piece: that's a win-win situation.

Every cartridge that can be remanufactured will come back onto the market with less carbon footprint than the true recycling option because the cartridge is being reused substantially in its original form.

I like to support the World Wildlife Fund when I can, but their website shows they don't collect empty toner cartridges. Luckily there are plenty of collection services where you can nominate the charity of your choice. Here are three to get you started:

http://www.returnatoner.com/     http://dacsofficesolutions.com/    http://www.gtrecycling.com/

Samsung's own program

the first ever diagram to help with toner refills

Whoops! Clicking on the UK "ERP" link from samsung.com got me this. Hey Ho.

Kudos to Samsung. They should be credited with having developed an end-to-end recycling program for their used toner cartridges. That probably wasn't easy and it certainly isn't cheap to operate.

Although it has been alleged that the ultimate motivation for this kind of program is to deny commercial re-manufacturers the empty cartridges they depend on, we're not aware of any real proof of that.

The 3R's remain though. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Viewed solely from the green perspective, you should reuse your Samsung toner cartridge until no longer serviceable. Then you could make good the next link in the chain and send the cartridge to Samsung. Where, in their own words (at http://pages.samsung.com/starus/index.jsp), they have a process that ...

"safely reprocesses empty cartridges into their major usable component materials (plastics and resins, metals, non-metal materials, packaging cardboard, and other miscellaneous materials) and then makes those recovered materials available to the raw materials marketplace for reuse in new manufacturing for a range of products"