When your small business office printer comes to the end of its life, where does it go? Are there recycling options? Do you toss it in the garbage?
Most people don’t think about what happens to their trusty printer once they’re ready for a new model. Still, as with any other type of electronic waste, your business must understand how to dispose of a printer properly.
Here’s a look at how to responsibly get rid of those old printers that are just sitting around, collecting dust and cluttering your office.
Why can’t you throw out old printers?
Getting rid of old printers is like disposing of other types of electronics – you can’t just throw them out. Printer ink cartridges may have toxic elements, and many states have enacted laws regarding the proper disposal of electronic waste (e-waste).
Businesses that illegally dump electronics can face huge fines. One notable example was in 2014, when AT&T was fined a whopping $52 million for mishandling e-waste and illegally sending hazardous materials to landfills.
How to dispose of old printers properly
To responsibly dispose of old printers, consider recycling, donating, selling and finding trade-in offers.
1. Recycle your old printers.
Recycling is a quick and relatively easy way to dispose of old printers. Here are a few recycling options.
- Big-box retailers: Retailers like Best Buy often put out in-store recycling bins so you can drop off your printers in the designated receptacles. Other stores with recycling programs include Target, Staples and Office Depot. Most towns have one of these major chains nearby, so recycling your unwanted electronics shouldn’t be a burdensome chore.
- E-waste collection centers: Another option is to go to an e-waste collection center. Depending on where you live, a center likely exists in your area. Check with city hall or your city or county website for e-waste drop-off locations and hours. Using a recycling center is a simple option that takes care of your problem in an environmentally friendly manner. You may also be able to recycle or dispose of old printer and toner cartridges.
- Sponsored local events: To make it even easier for consumers and business owners to get rid of old technology, some cities and counties hold daylong or weekend events to collect electronic waste. Drop off your printers at the designated location, and you’re good to go. Not every community offers an electronics recycling program or dedicated day, but if yours does, make note of it so you can dispose of your unwanted electronic equipment.
- Original manufacturers: You can also contact the printer’s manufacturer. Epson, Canon, HP, Sony, and Samsung all have e-waste recycling and take-back programs, but be sure to contact them first to see if they’ll accept your printers. The companies may accept only some devices as part of their take-back programs.
Consider migrating to a paperless office, which minimizes the use of physical paper in favor of digital documents
2. Donate your old printers.
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Here are a few ideas for donating your old printers:
- Give to a charitable organization. While you can certainly recycle old printers, it’s never a bad idea to help out organizations in need. If the printers still work, many organizations – schools, recreation centers, community organizations, thrift shops, charities and nonprofits – will be happy to take them and put them to good use. Meanwhile, you’ll build a good brand reputation within the community.
- Find an electronics outreach program. You can also donate old printers to organizations specializing in electronics outreach for those in need. For instance, the World Computer Exchange provides electronics – such as computers and peripherals – to developing countries. A list of currently needed items is available on its website.
- See if your manufacturer has a repurposing program. Some manufacturers work with organizations to recycle and repurpose electronics, including printers. One such manufacturer is Dell. The Dell Reconnect program, in partnership with Goodwill, lets you drop off your printers at any Goodwill location, and they’ll take care of the rest.
- Let a nonprofit sell your old printers. Even if your printers don’t work, you can still donate them. Many charities and organizations can sell nonworking electronics for cash or trade them in for gift cards.
In addition to your printers, consider donating old computers, computer monitors, and other unwanted electronic items that might benefit organizations in need of some tech.
If you donate your old printers to qualified charities, you may receive reduced business tax liability due to charitable giving rules. Check with the IRS to be sure your donation qualifies.
3. Sell your old printers.
If they’re in good condition, there are several ways to turn those old printers into cash. Here are some places where you can sell used printers.
- Printers Jack: At Printers Jack, you can get a quote, ship the printer, and get paid by check or via PayPal.
- SellYourPrinters.com: The SellYourPrinters.com service is similar to Printers Jack, but it specializes in refurbishing laser and dot-matrix printers from IT departments.
- Online marketplaces: List your printer on sites like eBay, Amazon, Bonanza and Craigslist.
- Social media: Make a post or join buy-and-sell groups on Facebook to sell your printer locally. These groups can get crowded, but there are plenty of opportunities to sell used tech through social forums and groups.
- Junk shops and repair shops: Even if your old printers no longer work, you can still get some of your investment back by selling them to junk shops and repair shops. Depending on where you live, you may need to take some time to find these places and then call to see if they accept your type and brand of printer.
Selling printers can be a pain at times, but it’s a good way to offset the cost of purchasing a new printer. Printers tend to be expensive, and getting a few hundred dollars from selling a used printer can be a big deal to some small businesses.
If you sell your printer through an online forum, check the price of similar used printers to ensure you get the proper value out of your used printer and aren’t bilked by a potential buyer.
4. Trade in your old printer.
Big-box retailers of office and technology items, like Best Buy and Staples, often let businesses or individuals trade in printers if they plan to buy new or replacement models.
The trade-in value varies by company. For example, in 2022, Best Buy’s in-store-only offer lets customers save $30 to $50 on specific Epson printers and scanners when recycling an older Epson printer or scanner.
Staples, on the other hand, has yearly “save-and-trade” events for “up to an extra $100 when you trade in your old device.” Staples also has a sustainability pledge in which select other tech items are eligible for trade-in.
If you’re buying a new printer and considering a multifunction printer or copier, you’ll need to decide if you want it to print in color, if you prefer ink or toner, and if you want to buy or lease the device.
How to prepare a printer for removal
Each printer brand may have its own safety instructions for proper disposal (like HP does), but most follow the same general guidelines when preparing to remove and dispose of the printer.
- Remove ink cartridges. Take the ink cartridges out of the printer carefully (so you don’t break the ink cartridge docks). Depending on the type of ink cartridge, you can keep them for another printer, sell them, recycle them or dispose of them separately.
- Remove SD cards (or other removable memory). Removing any added memory is an important step, especially if you plan to dispose of the printer. Remove any storage that didn’t come with the printer to ensure your information stays safe and accessible.
- Restore factory defaults. A printer’s touchscreen usually has options for reverting to the factory defaults; look for a menu called Settings, Setup or Maintenance, or refer to the manual.
- Unplug and disconnect wires. Wires, like ink cartridges, can be kept for future use, sold or recycled. If you’re planning to sell the printer, keep any USB and power cords packed next to the printer so they aren’t lost.
- Remove the printer from your computer. Lastly, go into the Printers and Scanners section of your computer’s settings and remove the printer from your list. This way, printing won’t automatically default to a piece of hardware that you no longer have.
Various printer disposal options
Don’t just throw your old printers in the trash. There are recycling programs available to properly dispose of used printers and other forms of e-waste. If you decide not to recycle, consider donating to a local organization. You may even get a tax deduction if you donate the equipment to a charity. If you don’t want to go either of those routes, try selling the printer to offset the cost of its replacement.
Sean Peek and Sara Angeles contributed to the writing and research in this article.