Almost Like Printing Cash: Make Money From Your Used Ink Cartridges

Image: Ink Catridges
Kenny Louie under Creative Commons

It’s easy to let empty printer cartridges pile up. You don’t want to trash them because you know they’ll end up in a landfill, but refilling them is too messy. So they slowly accumulate on your desk or in a drawer, contributing to the clutter you keep meaning to do something about.

The good news? You can actually get paid to dispose of your empty ink or toner cartridges and be environmentally friendly at the same time.

Here are the three most common methods of earning money with empty printer cartridges — read on to find out which one makes you the most money.

Sell Used Printer Cartridges on eBay

You may have seen new ink and toner cartridges for sale on eBay, but did know that you could sell empty ones there as well? (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!).

I’ve sold empty inkjet cartridges from my HP home printer through the site twice. The first time, I made $24.99 for six empty cartridges, and the second time I sold five cartridges for $34. Selling multiple cartridges at once, known as selling in lots, helps save you time and makes your listing more attractive to buyers.

Make sure your listings stand out by including details. Note the manufacturer, model numbers and whether the cartridges are black, color or a combination of the two. Add a picture of your cartridges as well. You don’t have to be Ansel Adams, but clearly show what you have to sell.

If you’ve never refilled your cartridges, make sure to include the word “virgin” in both the title and description of your listing — it could make your post more popular and help you earn more money.

Turn Empty Cartridges in at an Office Supply Store

Big-box office-supply stores like OfficeMax and Staples have ink cartridge recycling reward programs. Each of these stores will give you $2 in store credit for each qualifying cartridge that you turn in, up to a maximum of 10 empty cartridges per month. That $20 a month could go a long way toward paying for school supplies each September!

To participate, you must be a member of their customer reward programs and make qualifying purchases. But if you regularly shop at either store, this could be a good solution for you. It’s also worth checking out your local mom-and-pop office-supply store to see if it has a similar program.

Use a Cartridge Buy-Back Site

Several websites offer to buy back your empty cartridges, and most also pay for the shipping costs. eCycle Group will pay anywhere from 25 cents to $4.50 for an empty inkjet printer cartridge, and Toner Buyer offers similar prices. Of course, laser printer cartridges command quite a bit more, sometimes as much as $20 each.

Each site lists all of its buy-back prices. If you like what you see, send them your “inventory” and they’ll give you a prepaid postage label. After they receive your shipment, they’ll issue you a check.

Which Option is the Best?

While each option has its advantages, returning cartridges to an office supply store is least desirable to me, since it involves both a special trip and store credit. Selling through a buy-back site is slightly better because it avoids those things, but the wait for the check makes this option less appealing.

For me, the best place to sell empty ink cartridges is eBay. I already know the site well, and once the transaction is complete, I can quickly access the money in my PayPal account.

Your Turn: What do you do with your empty ink cartridges? Have you ever sold them?

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of two blogs: The Family CEO and Creating This Life.

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