Printers are complex machines containing a mix of plastics, metals, electronics and components, some of which are marked as potentially hazardous waste. In 2023, it’s more important than ever to be kind to the planet, and there are many environmentally safe ways to dispose of a printer.
Even the world’s best printers can reach the end of their life after several years if ink or toner is no longer available. A much-loved printer may suffer heavy wear and tear or be damaged by a catastrophic power surge that is very expensive to repair.
To get rid of this, it is not necessary for the printer to become unusable. Let’s say you upgrade to a more affordable tank printer or move from a monochrome to a color laser printer. Whatever the reason, here are several ways to dispose of the printer in an environmentally friendly way.
Gift, donate, or sell a working printer
If your printer still works, you can give it to a friend or family member. Reusing electronics is the best way to get the full value of a device, and printers are one of the easiest tech products to reuse. Social media is a good place to ask if someone needs a printer.
To avoid any issues, it’s best to provide a disclaimer about any issues with the printer, and if it needs ink or toner, share that information as well. If you offer a “free” printer that is completely out of ink, you may get complaints about that detail being left out.
A local charity – like Free Geek – near our headquarters in Portland, Oregon might accept a printer. And hey, if you’ve got a receipt, you can write it off on your taxes, too. Note that the discount is based on fair market value, not the original cost of the printer.
You can also offer your printer for free online. While it is easy to send small printers, it is best to find one local to reduce the expense and greenhouse gases resulting from unnecessary travel.
Freecycle is a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping useful products out of landfills. The Buy Nothing Project is similar, allowing you to list free items and find the ones you want.
If you’re disposing of an expensive printer, you may want to recoup some of its value by selling it. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are good options for local classifieds, and there is no charge to list your printer for sale or offer it for free.
Recycling a Dead Printer
Printers typically do not contain lithium batteries, but ink and toner may contain other heavy metals and chemicals that can contaminate groundwater. Wind can pick up fine particles in the toner and spread the debris anywhere. It is important to recycle ink and toner cartridges, as well as dispose of the rest of the printer parts properly.
For many years, people would throw away damaged and old electronics in the trash, and they would end up in landfills, creating a hazardous waste problem. Thankfully, recycling provides an answer to dead printers.
However, you cannot put the printer in the recycling bin because it is made of many types of materials. Even if you disassemble your old printer into its metal and plastic components, most parts are unacceptable to residential recycling programs.
Many areas have e-waste recycling programs to help solve this problem. Sometimes, there are community recycling programs of one or more days when you can drop off your used electronics and batteries for recycling and safe disposal. Contact your local government or waste disposal provider to find out when and where to recycle the printer.
Some electronics and office stores accept old printers and printer cartridges. For example, Best Buy and Staples recycle printers for free. Ask your local store if they have an electronics recycling program that accepts printers or cartridges.
In addition to third-party solutions, most major manufacturers have a printer recycling program. You can check the websites of HP, Epson, Brother, and Canon for specific instructions.
The manufacturer pays for shipping, but to qualify for free recycling you must keep the printer in the box and follow specific rules. Although this method helps avoid e-waste, sending back unwanted printers is not an environmentally friendly option as delivery vehicles use energy and often create carbon.
The last option is to keep a dead printer and reuse the parts to repair a similar model. Unfortunately, parts are rarely interchangeable. You will need two printers from the same manufacturer and from the same family.
Manufacturers may refresh an old printer design with new features and give the new product a similar model number. It’s probably not worth the effort unless you have experience refurbishing electronics.
If you have two unusable printers of the same type, you will still have to find out what is wrong, and then remove and replace the correct part to get one working again. This is a lot of work, so it’s only worthwhile if these are expensive printers.
keep your printer running
If you use your printer frequently, you should consider a durable small business printer designed to last. Products designed to handle larger workloads may cost more initially, but often last long enough to be worth the extra expense.
It’s worth noting that laser printers are generally more robust than inkjet printers, but this is not always the case. Our printer buying guide can help you decide which type of printer is best for you.