Whether your trusty inkjet or laser has spit out its last page, or you’re just looking to upgrade, here’s how not to land your old printer in a landfill.
Donate, Recycle, or Sell Your Old Printer?
Whether your printer is a lightweight budget inkjet or a bulky workhorse laser, a single-function printer or a versatile all-in-one (AIO), the time will come when you’ll need to find a responsible way to dispose of it. Maybe it broke down for good; maybe you’ve simply replaced it with a better model. Whatever the reason why you don’t need your printer any longer, getting rid of it responsibly means making sure it gets refurbished and put back into service, or that its materials get into the right recycling streams. Here’s how to make that happen.
Donating Your Used Printer
Whether your printer is still working or totally done for, there are plenty of organizations, including Goodwill and the Salvation Army, that will accept and recycle your goods. Here are some examples of the many programs available. Some are regional.
StRUT. The Students Recycling Used Technology provides schools in Arizona, Louisiana, and several other states with reusable printers and other equipment. By repairing or refurbishing the printers, students learn valuable IT skills, and participating schools gain valuable equipment.
Dell Reconnect. In 2004, Goodwill joined forces with Dell to recycle or refurbish most types of office and IT equipment, including printers. To participate, simply drop off your used printer at one of Goodwill’s more than 1,900 stores or drop-off locations.
eBay Giving Works. If you don’t mind doing a little footwork to get your no-longer-needed printer into needy hands, the auction giant eBay will help you sell it and then contribute 10 percent to 100 percent of the proceeds to an organization of your choice. For details, go to eBay’s eBay for Charity page.
If you search around the Internet, you’ll undoubtedly find other possible destinations. Disposed-of printers are more valuable to worthy causes, of course, if they still work. If you have a working single-function or all-in-one machine that you just want to get rid of, a quick visit to PickupPlease.org, a site that takes donations for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), should help. VVA is one of the primary groups working to make sure that Vietnam vets get support they need.
Recycling at a Big-Box Store
The most obvious way to get rid of a defunct printer is to throw it in the trunk of your car and drive it to the local recycle center. This method, rather than throwing it in the trash (or even the recycle bin), usually ensures that it gets dismantled and all the various materials—plastics, metals (including difficult-to-deal-with ones, such as lead), circuit boards—inside and out get separated and recycled properly, or broken down and put back into service responsibly.
If the machine works, however, or if it’s too big and heavy for you to load and transport, there are plenty of other options. If all you want to do is get rid of it with as little fuss as possible, a quick web search will bring up local and national organizations that will pick it up for free or for a small fee. (In my small community, for example, an organization that specializes in resources for special-needs children comes around in a big truck in which it will haul off just about anything.)
In addition, several electronics and office-supply store chains offer recycle programs. Here are the two most popular ones.
Staples. For a while now, the Staples office-supply chain has been recycling printers and other hardware—no matter where you bought it—for free. You can drop off the machine at your local Staples store, or call to have it picked up. Not only will the company pick up your printer for you, but you can also call ahead to request a box and other packaging. Furthermore, Staples is an e-Stewards Enterprise, meaning that the company has committed to using e-Stewards-certified recyclers to handle the equipment it collects, thereby assuring that your old printer gets moved on to the next phase in its e-waste journey responsibly.
Best Buy. Like Staples, Best Buy has been recycling e-waste, including printers, for years. However, this chain’s printer-recycle service is a little more attractive, in that if you bring in any printer, no matter who made it or where you bought it, the store will give you 15 percent off select new HP printers. This is a terrific deal if you’re in the market for another printer, and the “select” models meet your needs. A drawback versus the Staples program, though, is that in most cases, Best Buy charges a fee to haul away your unit.
Recycling and Buyback Alternatives
E-Cycling Central is a directory of recyclers skilled at properly disposing of e-waste, including printers. You’ll find descriptions of local e-cyclers and the services each one provides, such as pickup services, or whether (and what) they pay for specific types of e-waste material.
Most of the major printer manufacturers offer their customers recycle or buy-back programs. Each one is different, and depending on the product, they’re not always free. Here’s a breakdown.
Canon. Simply fill out an online form, and the company will offer an estimate on how much cash it is willing to give you for your printer. If it’s determined that it has no value, recycling options will be offered.
Epson. This program is just for recycling, but it’s easy. Print a prepaid label, pack up your printer, and drop it off at a FedEx location. Epson will take care of the recycling.
HP. The HP Consumer Buyback and Planet Partners Recycling Program will buy—based on current value, of course—printers from any manufacturer originally sold by any vendor. For example, you can sell your used Brother, Canon, or Epson machine here, provided it has street value. If HP determines that your printer has no monetary value, the company will then provide you with recycling options.
OKI Data. OKI Data’s recycling programs vary by state. Click here for more.
Xerox: Xerox’s recycling options also vary by state. Check them out here.
Avoid the Trash Heap
We won’t go into detail here, but remember that, other than the buyback programs noted here, you have plenty of options for selling your used printer if it’s still in decent condition. This is especially true of well-built, higher-end business-oriented printers and AIOs, as well as professional photo printers. Beyond the buyback programs mentioned here, the web is loaded with sites for selling your used tech, with the most common and recognizable being Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay.
But if your printer has hit the end of its life, or you’re looking to do something altruistic, donating or recycling are easy options. Legislation has been enacted in 25 states establishing electronic waste recycling programs, and many printer manufacturers and sellers have gone to great lengths to be responsible about disposing of their customers’ second-hand wares. The good news is that finding a way to keep these machines and the material from which they’re constructed from doing more damage to the environment than necessary is relatively easy. Whether donating, recycling, or selling it for cash, there is no shortage of ways to keep your printer out of the dumpster. Do the right thing when the inevitable end of its service life comes.
Once your printer is recycled and you’re ready for a new one, you’ll want to check our our roundup of the best printers you can buy right now, as well as our deep dive into how to save money with low-cost printer ink programs.