Remanufactured Ink And Toner Makes Good, Green $ense

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Consumer Alert: There are three things you need to know about remanufactured ink and toner cartridges:

  1. They are not inferior in quality to new Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. (In fact, in 1997, the US EPA stated that remanufactured products are “as good as new.”)
  2. Using a remanufactured or any cartridge other than that of the OEM will not in fact void the printer equipment warranty. (Not that manufacturers didn’t try.  They did but the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 specifically states that a warranty may not be voided because of the use of aftermarket products.)
  3. Buying them will typically save you money and selling spent cartridges will typically make you money.

(This information comes courtesy of whose primer about the truth about remanufactered print cartridges contains lots of additional information.)

There are two sides to greening your ink and toner purchases: The Buy and the Sell.

The Sell. The act of selling ink and toner cartridges is one of the easiest ways to make money and be green at the same time. On the revenue side, cartridges are valuable (some are worth as much as $22). If cash isn’t what your looking for, retailers such Office Max, Office Depot and Staples have rewards programs that give up to $3 in store credit for each eligible cartridge and have drop boxes in stores. (Office Max also has a postage-paid shipping program for those who recycle high volumes of cartridges—up to 300 a month). In any event, selling spent cartridges is easy and sometimes even lucrative.

The Buy. Want to know the impact of all those cartridges you’re using? The folks at SB Office Supplies, an online office supply retailer with an extensive green catalog, have a nifty Remanufactured Cartridge Savings Calculator that tells how much oil is saved and how many cartridges stay out of land fills when you buy remanufactured cartridges.

Convinced? They are basically two routes to go.

You can save significantly on the purchasing end by buying remanufactured toner and ink cartridges, since they typically cost 30–50% less than new ones. Or as Rik Fairlie of CNET said: “It’s not exactly a license to print money, but it is a permit to print more prudently.”

To ensure quality, when shopping for remanufactered cartridges you’ll want to ask three things:

  1. What type of service/money-back guarantee is offered.
  2. Whether the cartridge meets OEM standards.
  3. Whether the cartridge is Standardized Test Methods Committee (STMC)–certified—which means that it has been quality tested by an independent third party.

The International Imaging Technology Council (IITC) has a directory of reputable cartridge remanufacturers at their Find a Dealer tool. Once you’ve identified the dealers near you, check out each company’s website to find its product offerings, or call or e-mail a sales representative.  Also, virtually all office supply retailers and all of those mentioned in 10 Great, Cheap Green Office Supplies carry some inventory of remanufactured cartridges. And then there are eco-retailers like GreenLine Paper Company that sells only recycled ink and toner cartridges. And if your in SW Los Angeles County (CA) area check out InkPeace that is exclusively in the recycled cartridge business. InkPeace is a local distributor of remanufactured ink and toner, according to CEO Mark Hawkins, insures their clients, not the product:

“Just like car insurance.  2 years complete satisfaction money back guarantee.  If we mess up the printer, we fix it.  If we can’t fix it, we buy them a new one.  Of course, there has never been a problem.”

Any good seller of recycled cartridges should give you guarantees. And, the International Imaging Technology Council warns buyers to beware of scams and fraud, especially from “toner-phoners” who call with incredible deals.

Another option is using one of the ink cartridge refilling systems that are popping up across the country and which can save you as much as 50% off the price of a new cartridge. One name that kept popping up in my research was Cartridge World, a store dedicated to refilling ink and toner cartridges that has more than 1,700 locations in 61 countries. Many large retailers such as Walgreens (more than 3,000) and Office Max (almost 700) also have refilling kiosks in-store. (By the way, general wisdom is that if you’re thinking about doing it by hand, it probably isn’t worth it—it’s typically messy and produces low-quality print results.)

According to Bill McKenney, President and CEO of InkTec Zone America, a refilling machine manufacturer whose machines refill through the ink head rather than “drill and fill” says: “90% of US businesses that use ink jet printers should be using refilled cartridges for most printing needs.” McKenney feels that refilled ink is suitable for everything but some archival printing.

Whether your a buyer or seller, you can feel good about more than cashing in.  Either way you won’t be contributing to the more than 350 million cartridges (and growing) that are discarded in U.S. landfills every year.

Photo: Cartridge World


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