Replacement inkjet cartridges are expensive, prompting the question; should you buy new OEM cartridges or should you buy refilled cartridges from third parties. This article examines this question primarily from an ecological and performance perspective.
One major problem with buying refilled inkjet cartridges is that most people underestimate the precision required of the cartridge to produce quality results. This also includes the ink, which must be manufactured to a precise specification to match the cartridge and print head components.
In some cases the cartridge is also the print head, further complicating the issue.
When buying a refilled cartridge you will have no idea how many times the cartridge has already been refilled or the quality of the ink used in the refill. The more times a cartridge is refilled the more likely it is to drift outside original manufacturing tolerances, leading to performance problems like smudging and banding. Similarly, poor ink quality can promote clogging of the print jets, poor color saturation and poor longevity of prints.
In this author's opinion new OEM cartridges will always outperform third party refills.
However, ignoring the fact that refills are cheaper there are considerable ecological issues that you may wish to consider.
The first think to consider is that there is a green impact from the initial manufacture of a new cartridge from non-recycled raw materials. This is estimated at 4.8 Kg CO2 for a single mono toner cartridge. However even a re-manufactured cartridge is estimated to produce around 2.4 Kg CO2.
Perhaps a statistic which is more readily grasped, is that each year over 350 million inkjet cartridges are placed in landfill sites. These cartridges take hundreds of years to decompose.
This presents us with a problem; on one hand we don't want the quality of our prints to suffer, we don't want less prints per cartridge and we want reliability and minimal down-time. On the other hand we don't want to be harming the environment by needlessly throwing our cartridges away.
A possible solution to this dilemma is to recycle the cartridges back to the original manufacturer. There are several advantages to doing this.
- Manufacturers like Hewlett Packard can recycle up to 70% of the materials from old cartridges for production of new ones.
- You can be assured that high quality ink will be used.
- You will be getting a brand new cartridge with in-tolerance specifications – meaning less chance of failure and performance problems.
So perhaps this offers the best of both worlds. In the United States the Hewlett Packard Planet Partner Recycling Program will accept your inkjet cartridges back. In some cases you may find return materials inside the original cartridge packaging, alternatively postage-paid return packaging can be ordered online.