The ink cartridge; another thing that we take for granted, actually, without it, our printer is practically useless. Just think about the last time when that machine ran out of ink, it seemed pretty worthless at the time, didn’t it? Ink cartridges are a real pain in the neck when they become empty, but the full ones keep our world going. But, what happens in the life cycle of an ink cartridge? When did it first appear? How many are we using, and what should we do with them when they run out of ink?

First things first, let’s start with the definition of an ink cartridge being a container for the (liquid) ink. Of course, ink cartridges are used in inkjet printers, not laser jet or dot-matrix one, there are two kinds: black and coloured. The coloured ones have magenta, cyan, yellow and black. These are the colours needed for all the other shades. Usually, printers have detectors to warn the user that the ink is about to expire.

Back in the day, there was no warning when the ink was running out, and you would have to replace the ribbons, or add toner to a computer reservoir to continue printing. All that was going on until 1984, the year when inkjet printers and cartridges were invented, but it was not smooth sailing at first, it took a couple of years until the inkjet printer cartridges were massively adopted. People loved them because you can use them to print on virtually anything: paper, film, or fabric.

Basically, the most important part of the cartridge isn’t the plastic container, nor the ink, but the print head which controls the extraction of ink. After all, that is what this is all about. There is a lot of science behind it. The orifice plate, for instance, is only 25 microns thick, in layman’s terms, it’s as thick as the third of the hair on your head, and this teeny tiny plate is responsible for how much ink is used.

If you have wondered how much time should pass before you replace your cartridge, it’s really hard to say since it mostly depends on the number of pages you are printing, and on how much ink you’ll need for it. So, there is no real answer.

However, there is an answer to how many ink cartridges are wasted every year, and the numbers are shocking. On average, around 8 cartridges are thrown away every second in the US, which means that 25 million printer cartridges end up on landfills every month, an Australian study revealed that a staggering 45% of print cartridge users (home or business) said that they still throw cartridges in the trash. If you know that a cartridge takes over 1,000 years to decompose, it’s obvious what kind of irreversible damage human carelessness can cause to the environment, for this reason, you should consider recycling ink cartridges. This way, we could save over 38,000 tons of metal and plastic going into landfills yearly, which would be pretty impressive, right!

By the way, if you have noticed that cartridges are way more expensive compared to the actual printer itself, you would be absolutely right in your observation. That’s an old trick used by manufacturers: a relatively cheap printer, and a pricey ink cartridge. Of course, the way around this is to refill the cartridge instead of buying a new one.

Therefore, the next time you decide to purchase a new cartridge, don’t just throw the old one away, recycle it properly, and you’ll be doing a huge favour to the environment and generations to come.

Incredible Planet Staff

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