Mini-article – Refilling and recycling ink and toner cartidges

By | December 2, 2007
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Refilling & recycling printer cartridges, a new website, keeping your credit card details safe if you shop online… plenty to keep you busy over the dark winter months in here.
Oh, and you can find out more about PCs and help the NSPCC at the same time – read how here

Mini-article – Refilling and recycling ink and toner cartidges
As more and more people get digital cameras, more and more people are using lots of ink cartridges in their printers. I know I use more than I used to, now I have a digital camera and know how to use it (Thanks to Claire, as I mentioned back in August!) And it really does seem wasteful to just chuck away the cartridge once it’s empty. A bit like buying a new fuel tank for your car every time you need more petrol. There are two ways around it:

1 – The easy way: send it back for recycling
If you have an inkjet printer, this is easy. You often get a bag to send it back in with the cartridge and even if you don’t, there are freepost addresses (eg here Or even easier, lots of charity shops can accept them. Not only does the cartridge get reused so there’s less waste, but the charity gets something for it as well.
If you have a laser printer it’s not quite so simple. Laser cartridges are much bigger so it’s even more worth recycling them. But because they’re bigger you don’t tend to get freepost envelopes for them. Some charity shops can take them, but not all. And although you can post them off, most places I know of insist that you have at least 10 before they’ll take them. My advice if you have a laser printer is to either band together with a few other people to send them back or find a local business who sends theirs back and see if they’ll put yours in with theirs – it won’t cost them anything so they might as well.

2 – The not-quite-so-easy-but-easier-than-it-sounds way: refill it
If you’re feeling just a little bit adventurous (or you’d like to save some money – and who wouldn’t?) you can refill your cartridges yourself. Again, it’s different depending on whether you have an inkjet or a laser printer.

For an inkjet printer, you can get kits to refill them from high street shops or from somewhere like PCWorld or even Tesco.

You use a syringe that comes in the kit to inject the ink into the cartridge. The trick is to do it slowly and to to make sure you don’t have any air bubbles going in along with the ink. (They tend to block it up and cause problems.) The other big tip is when your cartridge is empty, don’t leave it for long before you fill it. The little bits of ink left in it will dry up and clog up the nozzle. Ideally you’d refill it when the print starts getting a bit faint, instead of waiting until nothing is coming out at all… but if you do it within a day or two of the ink running out, it should be fine.
If your printer just has one colour cartridge, it has separate ‘tanks’ inside it for different coloured inks, so you’ll need to fill each one separately. A lot of inkjets nowadays have separate cartridges for each colour, though, which is probably easier – each cartridge just takes one type of ink.
If you’re a bit nervous of having a go, there are shops you can go to where they’ll fill your cartridge for you, usually at about half the price of getting a new one. It’s not as cheap as doing it yourself but it coudl still save you a fair bit.
But however you do it, the cartridge won’t last forever. They’re designed to be thrown away so eventually the nozzle will get clogged up or something on the cartridge will break. You can usually get up to about 5 refills of one cartridge – anything more than that is a bonus! Still, if you only have to buy a new one once instead of 5 times, that’s lots better!

Refilling Laser Printers
Laser printers don’t use liquid ink. Instead they have powdered ‘toner’. You can still refill them but you need a special kit that you can’t usually get in the shops. Have a look at, where you can buy them over the internet. You make a hole in the side of the cartridge, either by melting with a special tool, or by cutting it, then you pour the powder in using a special funnel. After that you seal the hole with sellotape – carefully as the powder is very fine and comes out easily. It’s fairly easy to do as long as you don’t spill the powder! Laser printer cartridges can usually be refilled 2 or 3 times.

Download/website of the month – Saga-Zone networking site
I know several of my readers are over 50 (I think the record is a 93 year old who wrote to me to say he learnt to use PCs for the first time two years ago, so don’t listen if people say computers are only for youngsters) so here’s something you can only use if you’re 50 or older.
Saga have just brought out a ‘social network’ website. If you’ve heard of Facebook, Beboo or MySpace, they’re the same kind of thing. It’s a website where you can socialise with other people logged onto it. But Saga’s one is for people aged 50 or over only. You can ‘chat’ over the internet with other people, create a blog or ask questions in the forums. Have a read of Saga’s article about it here:
They have a couple of computer bits on the forum, which might be worth a look (and if you happen across anyone asking for good computer books, you know where to send them!)

Reader’s Question
Why is my Lexmark Z700 printing blank pages? It tries to print but it all comes out blank
I’ve had similar problems with my Epson R265. Even so, I have to admit that the chap who was having this problem actually figured it out before I did!
Some printers won’t let you use cartridges made by a different company from the printer. If you try, they print out blank pages. You might wonder why on earth any other company makes cartridges that don’t work! It’s because when Epson, Lexmark and so on first made these printers, they would work with other companies’ cartridges. Then more recently they changed and stopped it working. So if you have an older printer, you might be all right.
If you have a separate cartridge for each colour ink, when you replace one colour, it will still print but will leave out that colour, making pictures look greenish, blueish or whatever colours are still working.

Word to the Wise – Verified by Visa
This is a way to make buying things online safer. You set it up on your Visa card with a password, then when you buy something online using the visa card, it asks you for (say) the 3rd, 4th and 7th letters from your password. Even if someone managed to get your card number and watch you using it on the internet, they’d only know the 3 letters you got asked for that time… and next time you’ll be asked for different letters. Nifty, though not all websites are using it yet – give it time.

Mastercard have an equivalent called Mastercard Secure – it works in the same way.
To sign up for them:

That’s all for this month. Don’t forget to have a read of how you can learn more about PCs and help the NSPCC at the same time:


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2007

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