The circle of life: How recycling printer cartridges plays a part in the green economy
With the decline of manufacturing in Australia, product stewardship programs like ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’, through which the manufacturers pay to recycle the materials, can play an increasingly valuable role in the emerging circular economy.
In nature, materials cycle endlessly and nothing is wasted, but humans have developed a linear approach of producing, consuming and disposing of items. The idea of a circular economy, a closed loop process in which we reuse, recover and recycle these valuable materials and keep them in the productive economy for as long as possible, is gaining traction in many business processes.
“We all know the planet has a finite supply of resources to tap into, so creating waste is a liability for both businesses and the environment,” said Ryan Collins, Recycling Programs Manager at Planet Ark. “Reducing waste generation and keeping valuable materials circulating within the economy will be a priority for everyone in years to come and is a significant area of jobs creation.”
Extended producer responsibility programs, which involve manufacturers taking responsibility for the items they produce, help develop a circular economy. The ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program is one of the longest-running examples of an extended producer program in Australia.
Printer cartridges collected through the program are sorted and, depending on their condition, returned to the manufacturer for reuse or dismantled, with plastics, metals, toner and ink collected and refined for recycling. They are turned into a wide range of items including commodities like aluminium, ferrous metal, stainless steel and over six different plastic types, as well as new products like cartridges, pens, rulers, asphalt additives, and eWood™ which is used to make park benches, fencing and garden beds.
If they are sent to landfill printer cartridges can take between 450 to 1000 years to break down, which is why Planet Ark is calling on everyone to recycle their printer cartridges responsibly. Over 27 million cartridges, equivalent to 12,000 tonnes of plastics, metals, inks and toners, have been recycled since the program began in 2003.
Mindarie Regional Council’s vision is ‘Winning back Waste’ and as printer cartridges contain many valuable materials that can be recycled it encourages residents to recycle their used cartridges. Printer cartridges are just one of the many items that can be dropped off for free at the Tamala Park Recycling Centre.