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How to Dispose of a Printer

written by: John Lister•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/20/2008

With new printers retailing for as little as $30, users are much quicker to buy a new machine rather than get an old one repaired. We explain what to do if you want to get rid of an old or broken printer but are worried about the environmental effects.

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    Recycle toner and ink cartridges

    Even if you decide to simply throw away your printer, there are two reasons why you should always remove ink and toner cartridges before doing so. Firstly, toner cartridges contain potentially toxic materials which can cause problems when put through the ordinary waste disposal process. Secondly, you may well find you can send the cartridges to be refilled, which works out considerably cheaper than buying brand new cartridges. Do check online for reviews first, though, as quality can vary substantially. If you decide against this option, check with the original manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program.

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    Check your local government policy

    Before disposing of a printer, check with your appropriate local government to find out the rules that apply. In most of the US, printers are not covered by the same tight rules as other computer equipment, but this can vary from state to state.

    You may also find your local government either provides a waste disposal centre with separate facilities for electrical equipment, or can collect it either as part of your regular waste collection or a special one-off visit.

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    Keep it local

    Before throwing a printer away, check to see if it’s of any use to a local charity, school or thrift store. Many places may be unable to take electrical goods for safety reasons, but it’s worth making sure. If you can’t find anywhere, of if the printer is too badly damaged to be reused, see if there are any local computer firms which might be able to take the printer for spare parts and reconditioning. You may not get any money for it, but you’ll know its going to good use.

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    Go back to the source

    Many printer manufacturers have a scheme for recycling old printers, so check the website of the firm which made your model. Policies vary, but as an example, HP will collect an old printer without charge and give you a $20-30 voucher against future purchases.

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    Call in the experts

    There are several independent firms which specialise in recycling unwanted electronic goods. It’s an option worth considering (particularly if you’ve no other choices besides throwing your printer in the trash), but you should take some time to check out each firm. Not only do the financial arrangements vary (some firms charge you for disposal), but government regulation allows a wide range of practices: some firms simply sell the printer as part of a bulk lot of scrap waste, while others will go to the effort of taking it apart, treating each component separately, and recycling each part in the most environmentally sound way.

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    Flyer for British recycling program