Printers

Can I Recycle My Old Printer?

Printers are recyclable – in fact, they are one of the most commonly recycled household electronics once they become outdated or simply stop working. So if you have an old printer taking up space in your home office, closet, or garage, don’t put it out with the trash – recycle it instead! 

The Cost of Unsafe Disposal of Printers is Very Real. 

Like many electronics, printers contain materials that are safe while the printer is in use, but become hazardous if disposed of improperly. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that printers, along with other end-of-life electronics, account for the majority of mercury in landfills. These toxic compounds will leach into the soil and water as the device decomposes in a landfill, which has human health implications for the surrounding communities. 

Landfills aren’t the only places being polluted by e-waste. Electronics that are sent overseas by bad actors looking to make a quick buck often end up in massive “graveyards” in developing nations. There, they are burned out in the open to expose the valuable metals within — producing toxic ash that people then breathe, and releasing those toxins into the water supply. These compounds have been shown to cause severe health consequences, including brain disease and birth defects. 

Recycling is the Proper and Legal Way to Dispose of Printers.

A growing number of states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, and North Carolina, are making it illegal to dispose of electronics, including printers, with the trash. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream around the globe, and given its incredibly slow decomposition, takes up a lot of space in local landfills. States and municipalities are adopting laws and other incentives to encourage residents and businesses to refurbish or recycle electronics rather than discard them. If it’s not illegal in your state yet, don’t expect that to last.

 

What Recyclable Materials Are Inside My Printer?

  • Industrial Plastic in the casing and internal parts
  • Metal Hardware holding the printer together
  • Circuit Board and Wires routing power through the mechanisms
  • Network Components that process data and commands from other devices
  • Cables including power, ethernet, and USB cords, all of which contain copper

Which Types of Printers Are Recyclable?

Every printer will be constructed with recyclable components, regardless of brand, function, or size. 

  • Laser printers
  • Inkjet printers
  • Desktop printers
  • Mobile printers
  • 3D printers
  • Industrial printers
  • Large-format printers
  • Combination printer/copier/scanner/fax machines 

Did You Know? Printers Can Store Your Data

You may not think of printers as a risk to your private data, but they can be. Some printers retain a record of the documents sent over the network to be printed. Clearing the printer’s memory yourself does not guarantee that all the data has been destroyed without a trace. 

A qualified recycler will destroy all data on your printer while recovering the physical materials. Be wary of any business that can’t describe or document their data security process and protocols. If you plan to sell or donate your printer, keep this security risk in mind and do your research to prepare your device for the secondhand market before turning it over. 

Cohen is dual certified by the recycling industry’s leading standards for quality, environmental health and safety: R2 and RIOS. We are also a member of the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), and compliant with the Guidelines for Media Sanitization published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

 

How Do I Recycle My Printer? 

Cohen’s public Recycling Centers accept printers. Simply bring your printer and any other electronics you’d like to recycle to one of our drive-thrus, and our staff will take care of you. 

Some charges may apply and can be adjusted over time based on market conditions. We always recommend calling the Recycling Center you intend to visit for the most current information. You can expect these charges to be around $0.25 per pound. You may be able to recoup the cost by bringing in other scrap at the same time. (First time going to Cohen? Check out our New Visitors Guide.)

We also have periodic electronics recycling drives to give you more opportunities to recycle. Follow us on Facebook to learn about upcoming drives. 

IMPORTANT: Ink and toner cartridges are not recyclable at Cohen. Please remove these components prior to bringing your device. The original manufacturer (such as Epson, HP, etc.) or electronics retailer where you bought the printer or ink may have a collection program where you can take your cartridges. Please do take advantage of these services: ink and toner are among the most damaging materials found in printers. 

Plastic filament used in 3D printers is also not recyclable at Cohen. However, with some cleverness and elbow grease, you may be able to recover that material yourself and reuse it for your next project! Check out this video that shows one way of recovering filament plastic. 


Next Steps

Visit our Location Finder to find the Cohen location closest to you. 

Not close to a Cohen Recycling Center? Many communities and businesses host their own e-waste collection events, and some retailers will also take your electronics. Your local waste management office is usually a good place to ask about electronics recycling opportunities near you.