Sustainable Printer Cartridge Disposal

Environmental Regulations and Industry Best Practice for Efficient Use of Resources

The inappropriate disposal of electronic or so-called “e-waste,” including office consumables such as laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges, represents a major environmental threat. In fact, according to Taylor, “E-waste’ is growing in landfills at three times the rate of general refuse.”

In the past, identifying ways to recycle laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges was complicated by the fact that these cartridges contain a “complex mix of plastics, metals, foams and toner.”

Identifying ways to recycle laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges, though, is worthwhile. For instance, “Printer cartridges contain valuable metals such as steel, aluminium and copper, as well as ink, toner powder, plastics, rubber, silica and foam, much of which can be recycled.”

Nevertheless, Weissman emphasizes that the fact that, “Disposal of electronics waste is complicated, because many of the more than 1,000 different substances in electronics waste streams are hazardous.”

The hazardous nature of e-waste makes its proper disposal essential. In this regard, Weissman adds that, “That makes landfilling of e-waste in the United States illegal in many circumstances. As a result, efforts at computer and e-waste recycling are proliferating.”

At present, tens of millions of laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges are inappropriately disposed of in landfills.

In other cases, millions of tons of e-waste, including laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges, are being shipped to developing nations for recycling. According to Weissman, “Under the Basel Convention, the shipment of hazardous waste — and the report argues that much of e-waste must be considered hazardous under the treaty — from rich to developing countries is banned. The United States, however, has not signed the treaty, and is not governed by its terms.”

The appropriate disposal of e-waste, though, is mandated by the MacVille Affirmative Action Policy which specifically stipulates that the company is “committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for our employees, contractors, and visitors.”

Non-compliances between current practice and regulation

The current (a) toner cartridge usage and (b) recycling procedures in place in the MacVille administration area are incongruent with sustainable practices and should be better managed to achieve improved environmental outcomes.

Current resources usage and feedback from stakeholders compared to best practice models

Current resource usage at MacVille indicates that (a) depleted toner cartridges are simply disposed of in the company’s general rubbish; (b) laser printer toner cartridges (approximately 12,000-15,000 pages) are replaced monthly on average; (c) photocopier toner cartridges (approximately 35,000 pages per toner) are replaced semi-monthly. In addition, all emails from clients are currently printed and hard copies stored in physical files and the administration team’s average toner usage is higher than comparable teams in other organisations.

Suggestions for improvement, including efficiency targets, environmental and resource efficiency management

Sustainable development is defined as “being able to meet present day needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet theirs.”

Time is of the essence for countries that are using increasingly scarce resources in unsustainable ways in order to mitigate the effects of these practices on future emissions and environmental conditions.

According to Wilburn, “Prevention now includes not only preventing of exposure to environmental contaminants, through the application of the hierarchy of controls in the workplace, but also to practicing source reduction, which involves replacing products and processes that create pollution with more environmentally healthy ones.”

Therefore, rather than simply disposing of the laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges in the company’s general rubbish, it is recommended that the administration team at MacVille retain these cartridges for a few months until they have a supply and then send the empty laser printer and photocopier toner cartridges to Cartridge Express. In return, depending on the cartridge type, Cartridge Express (a division of Cartridge Technology Network, Inc.) will have up to five trees planted for each cartridge in Global ReLeaf Forests. The best part of this recommendation is that the service is absolutely free.

In addition, it is unlikely that anyone from the administration team has ever been compelled to retrieve and consult a hard-copy of an old email from a client that is stored in the company’s archives. Therefore, it is also recommended that the practice of printing and filing copies of all emails from clients be discontinued and replace with a computer-based database system that records each email by date, author, subject and disposition to facilitate retrieval in the event they ever require review.


Gray, Gerry. (1999, Spring). “Corporations Go Green,” American Forests, 104(1): 3-5.

“Recycle Your E-Waste Today.” (2013, June 6). The Old Gympie Times, 37.

Taylor, Rachel. (2006, April-May). “He’s Closed the Loop: A Single Environmental

Commitment Turned Steve Morris into an Entrepreneur with a Company That’s about to Go Global,” Ecos, 130: 8-10.

Telker, Kimberly. (2008, July-August). “Relearning to Recycle: Streamlining the Process (and

Reaping Rewards) with RecycleBank,” E. Magazine 19(4): 21-23.

Weissman, Robert. (2002, March). “Hi-Tech Trashing of Asia.” Multinational Monitor, 23(3): 6-


Whittaker, Ben. (2012, September). “Sustainable Global Wellbeing: A Proposed Expansion of the Occupational Therapy Paradigm,” British Journal of Occupational Therapy 75(9):


Wilburn, S. (2007, May). “Overview and Summary: Environmental Health: Important Choices

for a Greener World,” Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 12(2): 37-40.

Taylor, Rachel. (2006, April-May). “He’s Closed the Loop: A Single Environmental Commitment Turned Steve Morris into an Entrepreneur with a Company That’s about to Go Global,” Ecos, 130: 8.

Taylor, 8.

“Recycle Your E-Waste Today.” (2013, June 6). The Old Gympie Times, 37.

Weissman, Robert. (2002, March). “Hi-Tech Trashing of Asia.” Multinational Monitor, 23(3): 6.

Weissman, 6.

Telker, Kimberly. (2008, July-August). “Relearning to Recycle: Streamlining the Process (and Reaping Rewards) with RecycleBank,” E. Magazine 19(4): 22.

Weissman, 7.

Whittaker, Ben. (2012, September). “Sustainable Global Wellbeing: A Proposed Expansion of the Occupational Therapy Paradigm,” British Journal of Occupational Therapy 75(9): 436.

Whittaker, 436.

Wilburn, S. (2007, May). “Overview and Summary: Environmental Health: Important Choices for a Greener World,” Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 12(2): 37.

Gray, Gerry. (1999, Spring). “Corporations Go Green,” American Forests, 104(1): 3.

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