Hundreds of Office Max, Office Depot and Walgreen stores have set up kiosks where customers can have their cartridges refilled at the store, eliminating the need for recycling.
Office Max established kiosks in 2006, one of the first office supply stores to do so, said William Bonner, a company spokesperson.
“Customers participate in the program based on their environmental awareness,” he says. At Office Max, there are additional ways to be environmentally conscious, he notes. Consumers can buy a refurbished ink cartridge or recycle their old cartridges and receive $3 off a new one.
The refill kiosks, however, provide the best savings, up to 50 percent off the price of a new ink cartridge. When Office Max announced the program, it promised to test and clean each cartridge brought in for refilling to reassure customers that their cartridges would be effective and appropriately filled.
Walgreens also has seen an opportunity in ink refills. It reports that ink cartridge refills are available in 3,000 Walgreens stores. They charge $10 for black; $15 for color ink.“The program has been well-received so far. We think customers appreciate saving money and at the same time protecting the environment,” says Tiffany Bruce, manager of media relations for Walgreens.
But a word to the wise, and especially those shopping for new printers: Not all ink brands can be refilled.
At Office Max, for instance, Lexmark and Hewlett Packard can be refilled, but Canon and Epson cannot, Bonner said.
As for refurbished cartridges, customers need to do their homework. This is a good program but in the early years, some of these refurbished cartridges were inferior. Case in point, our family reordered cartridges online for our Dell printer. The cartridges looked OK — until we attempted to install them and the ink spilled onto our carpet.
Mr. Bonner is not surprised. “Initially customers were resistant to the refilled cartridges. And remember, not all ink is created equal. Before we could promote our product, we had to emphasize the quality of the ink,” he said.
Some office supply stores, such as Staples, do not offer the refills.
“Regarding ink – at this point, we think that ink refilling does not serve our customers’ need for an easy shopping experience with quality products,” said Owen Davis, public relations manager at Staples Inc. “With that said, one way we offer customers a good value and conduct eco-friendly business practices is with a $3 off coupon toward a future purchase of ink or toner when HP, Lexmark(tm) or Dell cartridges are recycled at any Staples store nationwide.”
Office Depot did not respond to our query for information. However their website reports that they do sell re-manufactured ink cartridges, saying that each one saves a gallon of oil over the resources needed to produce a new cartridge.
A survey by the office supply chain in late 2007 indicated that customers are ready for green options. The survey of nearly 400 Office Depot customers found that 82% said they recycle their ink and toner cartridges.
Many office supply stores are showcasing their green initiatives and offering tips on keeping a greener office. Check them out at these websites:
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