Recycle vs. Refill


(Source: )

1) Why not refill? HP maintains that the quality of refilled cartridges is not as high as new ones bought from HP. And the company has resisted developing its own refill program because it can’t guarantee that the refilled cartridges will work dependably. In fact, on their page, “Is A Printer Ink Refill Really A Bargain?“, HP claims that Independent research has found that:

  • More than 33% of tested refilled ink cartridges failed during use or right out of the box.
  • More than 41% of the tested cartridges refilled by a refill service failed during use or right out of the box.
  • Only the tested Original HP ink cartridges worked every time with no failures.

Cartridge World, on the other hand, insists that through their own lifespan testing, they have found that their refilled cartridges will last as long, if not longer, than new HP cartridges. What’s more, Mr. Wong offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. He says that if customer’s are not completely satisfied with the cartridge, for any reason, they can return it. Yes, he admits, there is trust involved. But his business is part of the community and most of his traffic is repeat customers who rely on him to provide reliable ink replacements.

I guess the only way I’ll know for sure is to see for myself how long my Cartridge World refurbished yellow ink cartridge lasts.

2) Why do some HP cartridges expire before they are empty? Thom Brown forwarded me a link to HP’s explanation of ink expiration dates, which states that:

Air ingestion and water evaporation can cause ink to change over time. In printing systems where the printhead and ink supply are separate, older ink can adversely impact the printhead and the ink delivery components within the printer. With ink expiration, however, HP can prevent this from happening.

That said, Thom also let me know that HP’s newer printers all use cartridges that either don’t expire or have expiration dates that can easily be overridden with the push of a button. The chart on the Ink Expiration Dates page shows which printers have cartridge dates which can be overridden and which ones don’t. Mine, unfortunately, doesn’t.

3) Why does my HP printer stop working when only one color has run out? This one really irks me. Why can’t I print with only black when the yellow has run out? Thom assured me that all of HP’s new printers will continue to work when one or more cartridges is empty. And some models are able to create a composite from the remaining colors to approximate the missing color. For example, if the black runs out, yellow, magenta, and cyan can be combined to replace it. Of course, the result is probably not perfect, but who cares in a pinch?

Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t help me since I’m stuck with a printer that won’t function if any of the cartridges are empty or missing.


1) What happens to HP printer cartridges that are returned for recycling? While I’m still of the mind that cartridges ought to be refilled as many times as possible before recycling in order to save materials and energy, I am impressed with HP’s closed-loop recycling program. Instead of breaking down the materials and shipping them to 3rd parties for downcycling, HP recovers the material itself, and combining it with disposable plastic water bottles, incorporates the plastic and metals into new HP products.

Check out this interesting video which shows the full process by which the cartridges are collected and recycled. HP was one of the first American companies to engage in Extended Producer Responsibility before the idea of manufacturer’s taking back their products for recycling had reached public awareness in the U.S. In fact, during the Take Back The Filter campaign that I spearheaded last year, supporters cited time and again HP’s ink/toner cartridge recycling program as a model that Brita should follow to deal with its water filter cartridges.

2) What about worn out cartridges returned to Cartridge World?Realizing that no ink cartridge has an unlimited life span, and considering HP’s closed-loop recycling program, I asked Cartridge World what happens to cartridges they receive that are too worn or damaged to be refilled and resold. Shannon from the corporate office explained that the owner of each franchise is responsible for seeing that the materials are recycled properly and that the company does not dictate how it should be done.


Ken Wong in Oakland, at least, seems to be doing it right. The first step is Reuse. He keeps old cartridges for the parts that can be reused to refurbish newer cartridges. Recycling is the very last option after reusing parts. Materials that can be recycled are removed and taken to appropriate recycling centers. Any other material is sent back to the original manufacturer. Finally, Ken declared:

Disposal into the waste stream is not an option.

Since all Cartridge World locations are franchised to individual owners, you might want to call your own local store and ask the question I did: What exactly do you do with cartridges that are too old or damaged to be refurbished?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *