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The complete guide to secure printer recycling

Where do office printers spend the afterlife? When your printer’s time comes (RIP), you might think that getting rid of it is a simple matter. 

But wait! Before you throw it in the trash, remember that – like any other type of electronic waste, printer recycling requirements mean your device needs to be disposed of properly for security and environmental reasons. Plus, you may not be aware, but it contains valuable data that you’ll want to protect first.

Here’s how to recycle your old printer and protect your data:

  • Focus on printer security by perform a factory reset to restore any default settings 
  • Remove any memory or storage that didn’t come with the printer
  • Destroy the hard drive to erase any sensitive data that may remain
  • Find a secure printer recycling center and follow their instructions
  • Separate ink and toner cartridges, unwanted cables, and power cords and recycle appropriately
  • Delete the printer from your computer’s settings to prevent any future jobs going to this printer 
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First, focus on printer security

Before you get rid of your device, you need to ensure your data is protected by considering your printer security. First, open it up and take out anything that resembles a hard drive. If you find one, you should physically destroy it using a hammer or some other tool (this is also very satisfying!)

Remove any memory or storage that didn’t come with the printer, so that any information you may want is still accessible, including any SD cards, removable memory, or other add-ons. Take the print cartridges out of the printer, disconnect any USB, connecting cables or wires, and power cord – these can either be kept for future use or recycled.

When it comes to printer security, to erase any sensitive data that might sit in your printer memory, it’s a good idea to perform a factory reset that will restore the default settings your printer arrived with. Usually, the printer’s touch screen has options for reverting to factory defaults – look for Settings, Setup or Maintenance in the menu, or check the manual for instructions. 

If you want to be absolutely sure that your data is gone, you can unplug the printer, let it sit for a while, and then plug it back in. If there’s no local storage, you’re in the clear. 

Finally, go into the Printers and Scanners section of your computer’s settings and delete the printer from the list. This will break the connection between the printer and your other apps or cloud storage services, and prevent future print jobs from being sent to a piece of hardware that no longer exists.

Why printer recycling is good for the environment (and your wallet!)

Printers and their components contain toxic materials – including chemicals in the ink and toners, and other hazardous materials such as lead and mercury. If printers are placed in landfill or incinerated, these toxins can seep into the oil or enter the air as ash. 

Limiting electronic waste is an important way to achieve your organization’s sustainability goals. But not only is it good for the planet, it’s also great for your wallet! Many states and countries have laws about the proper disposal of e-waste, and businesses that illegally dump electronics can face whopping fines – sometimes in the millions of dollars. 

How to find a secure printer recycling center

For a quick and easy way to dispose of old printers, there are a few recycling options:

  • E-waste collection center. An online search should locate an e-waste collection center in your area that will take care of your printer in an environmentally-friendly way – you can check your local county or council website for drop-off locations and hours.  
  • Major retailers. Large stores like Best Buy and Staples often have in-store printer recycling bins where you can drop off your printers. These chains exist in most towns and cities, so you shouldn’t have to travel too far.
  • Original manufacturers. Many printer manufacturers offer buyback and printer recycling programs, so it’s worth contacting them or visiting their website to see if they’ll take your printer. In some cases, they may recycle printers from other manufacturers as well. 

What to do with ink cartridges, paper, and other accessories

Before disposing of your printer, be sure to remove the ink and toner cartridges, taking care so as not to break the cartridge docks. You may want to keep these for another printer, or recycle them to keep the ink out of landfill. 

Many retailers of print cartridges also offer recycling services through drop boxes at the front of their stores. An e-waste collection center may also accept ink and toner cartridges – they drain the remaining ink safely and clean the various components before disposal. Unwanted cables and power cords can also be dropped off here.

If you need to get rid of printed paper, most recycling centers have a designated paper bin that’s collected regularly. Some local councils also provide paper recycling services for local businesses or offer curbside collection of paper – so check the website for your area. Additionally, there are plenty of commercial recyclers that will collect and recycle office paper.

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