Recycling E-Waste, Made Easy

Duke employees can recycle ink and toner cartridges to help the environment

Tonya Higgs writes
Tonya Higgs writes "recycle" across the top of a toner cartridge box before leaving it for pick-up. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Instead of tossing it in the trash when empty, Tonya Higgs  takes each ink or toner cartridge Procurement Services uses and carefully puts it back in its box, writes "recycle" across the top and leaves it in the mailroom in Trent Drive Hall. It's a small effort, but if sent to a landfill, each used cartridge would add about two  pounds of metal and plastic waste that can take up to 1,000  years to decompose. When looking at it that way, Higgs said the decision to recycle the five to 10 cartridges her office uses each month is easy."Basically, it's the right thing to do because we just want to do our part to recycle anything we can," said Higgs, a staff assistant with Procurement Services. "It's free, easy and very convenient."Duke faculty and staff can be more sustainable by following Higgs' lead and recycling used ink and toner cartridges. Duke has encouraged employees to recycle cartridges for about 10 years, since a recycling program was offered for free through Corporate Express, which is now a part of Staples, which delivers Duke's office supplies. Any cartridge can be recycled through a three-step process:

  • Arrange a pick-up location for cartridges with a delivery driver, commonly the same location where deliveries are made.
  • Securely package an empty cartridge in its original box or another similarly-sized box.
  • Write "recycle" on the box and leave it for the delivery driver.

"We have Staples trucks on campus every day, so by saving your cartridges and having a driver pick them up to be recycled you're killing two birds with one stone," said Andrea Horn, program coordinator for Procurement Services. "It's an easy commitment to help Duke be more sustainable."In addition to having cartridges picked up by drivers, Duke employees can also mail used cartridges to Staples' California-based processing plant. Faculty and staff can access a pre-paid postage label through the Staples website.Once cartridges are sent to be recycled, they're broken down so 100 percent of their parts can be reused in new cartridges by companies like Hewlett-Packard , Horn said. Staples recycles an average of about 25 million ink and toner cartridges a year.For more information about the Staples recycling program, see this flier or contact Pam Richmond, the Staples account manager for Duke.