Warming the Planet One Ink Cartridge At A Time

I’m gonna come right out and say it: The people at Canon should be ashamed of themselves.

THIS is why our planet is going to hell in a handbasket. A fiery, unapologetic handbasket.


These little turds CANNOT be recycled. These are ink TANKS, not ink CARTRIDGES. These “tanks” are not hollow. They contain little sponges, sponges that soak up a good twenty five percent of any ink tank, hold it for an indefinite amount of time, and then render it useless. Something about the chip embedded in them, the sponges, and the fact they are made to be impenetrable, renders them unfit for recycling. And before you email me and say, “But have you tried…” let me state the following:

1. You CANNOT bring them to any of the major office supply retailers (Office Depot, Office Max, Staples) and trade them in. Some of these stores have a “turn an empty cartridge in, get money towards your new cartridge” program. Canon tanks do not qualify for this program. The employee may offer to “recycle” the tank for you, but they usually offer this so you’ll shut your indignant mouth and move on.

2. You CANNOT ask Canon to recycle them. They have a way to recycle toner cartridges, but not ink tanks. And sure, they’ll pay for the shipping to get the toner there, and they will show you many, many pictures of polar bears nuzzling their young on their website and claim that they are doing everything they can to protect the planet. But they, in fact, are not. ‘Cause you know what they would do if they were concerned about the earth? NOT MAKE THESE UN-RECYCLABLE PIECES OF SHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

3. You CANNOT refill them. Either your very clever printer will recognize your efforts to save the planet, and tell you that it recognizes (via the memory-saving technology stored in the chip on the tank) that you are trying to re-use a re-filled tank, and the tank will not work… OR… you will have to go through a series of button pressings to “trick” the printer into thinking it has a new tank in it. And that’s after you’ve managed to find a kit that will help you messily get the ink into the microscopic holes in the tank. (side note: One website’s forum suggested I take a drill and drill a hole in the top of the tank. A drill? Like I’m just going to casually pull a POWER TOOL out of my desk at the office the next time I run out of ink?)

Listen, I’m all about getting my hands a little dirty to help out mother earth. I’ve filled dozens of ink tanks in my day (mostly HP tanks. Thanks, HP, for ACTUALLY caring about polar bears.) I did it because I thought it was important to NOT throw plastic ink tanks into landfills. But what about the average office worker who doesn’t have either the patience or the precision to deal with such an operation? Is it fair to expect that every person using a printer is going to go to the same lengths to not throw a 2 inch square piece of plastic in the trash? Because, given the choice, most people would choose not to ruin their white dress shirts. And I can’t say I blame them.

I get it. I like money, too. And Canon makes thousands upon thousands of dollars creating these “consumables” for the printing industry. And there is a whole thriving refill-kit industry out there too. So, who am I to get in the way of every one’s cashing in on the impracticality of making my own ink? I just think there’s a better way. Canon also claims that their printing is superior because of the whole sponge-tank technology and because its printers physically prevent you from reinstalling spent tanks. I get that too. I understand the benefit of good quality printing. I also understand that plastic doesn’t EVER GO AWAY and that Canon is single-handedly creating MILLIONS of pounds of pure trash every year worldwide. What I can’t understand is why we can’t have both high quality printing AND responsible ways of disposing of the tanks.

I’ve always thought: if you’re going to invent a product that has its obsolescence built into it, you ought to also invent a conscious way to dispose of it. If manufacturers thought this through, they could actually stand to MAKE money on the disposal/recycling part.