My printer dilemma, do I WEEE it or pay out money?

Filed in Blog by on January 24, 2010 22 Comments
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mrs Green with her printer - should I WEEE it or buy new cartridges?

mrs Green with her printer - should I WEEE it or buy new cartridges?

I’m having a real dilemma and don’t know what to do. Maybe you can help.

I have an old inkjet printer which has been unused for a couple of years. Mr Green and I have a black and white laser which we use, but recently, Little Miss Green has been doing some school projects which would benefit from colour print outs.

I retrieved this printer from my stash of ‘one day’ items and as you might have guessed, the ink had run out – such is the life of inkjet printers.

I bought some ‘compatible’ cartridges from eBay. The black one was ok, but the colour one didn’t work.

To be specific, the yellow didn’t work. Blue and Red were ok, but there was no yellow to mix the colours.

I contacted the company and they offered a replacement, which I accepted.

It duly arrived and guess what? It didn’t work – the yellow didn’t work.

I readjusted the print heads, ran through the cleaning process, did everything outlined in the trouble shooting section of the manual, but nothing would get the yellow to work.

Once I took the cartridge out, however, I had a pool of yellow ink leaking out.

Just to add insult to injury, the black has now run out (after only about 100 prints being done)

So here’s my dilemma:

I don’t know whether these compatible cartridges are a load of poop or whether there is something wrong with my printer.

Black and white and colour original “Epsom” cartridges cost £28 and £24 which is a total of £52.

What if I spend that money and find that the printer STILL doesn’t work? To have someone just look at it will cost more money and then a repair job might be another £50 or more.

What if I spend all that money only to find it is ‘beyond economical repair’ and I need a new one?

I can buy a brand new printer, good enough for my basic needs for LESS than the price of the cartridges; £39.99 to be precise.

I find myself facing a real question of ethics, one where I should put my money where my mouth is – repairing something rather than WEEEing it, but my purse strings are sitting on the other shoulder with their devils horns on telling me otherwise.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – have you ever faced a similar situation; perhaps with the price of a new mobile phone battery costing more than a new phone for example?

What would you do in my situation – pay £52 on cartridges to find out whether your printer is broken or quit while you’re ahead and go out and buy another whilst dumping something that MIGHT be in perfect working order in WEEE recycling?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (22)

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  1. michael says:

    I refill my printer cartridges with ink from INKTEC, If cartridges get blocked I stick them in a saucer with hot water for 5 minutes.

  2. There may be a charity near you that can take old equipment and refurbish it for charity, sometimes as part of a training scheme. While I was researching my book I came across some excellent resources and schemes that were emerging across the country. There’s a list here: where you find an organisation that can help locally.

    If not, there’s maybe someone who collects these for repair on Freecycle. More cost-effective for them to repair it and keep it in circulation. On thing’s for sure, when it comes to IT equipment, even if peripherals are cheap these days, there is always someone who could do with free second equipment.

  3. H0gg1t says:

    I have experienced the same problem with ink cartridges when buying cheaper alternatives, they simply do not last at all long, so I have unfortunately gone back to expensive HP ones! Will reasearch a cheaper ink user when we need to replace.
    Perhaps it is time to Freecycle this one and get another; better someone who knows how to mend it has it than you struggling on without working equipment. LMG must have something to do her homework with!

  4. Sam says:

    I had a similar problem with compatible cartridges, but the ones I get from are good quality and good value. Might be worth trying them first.
    Original cartridges are so expensive, it’s just a joke. Check the details of the cheaper replacement printer – quite often these require really expensive branded cartridges, so you might find yourself in the same situation in a few months!

  5. Katy says:

    I’d offer it on Freegle/Freecycle. We have a great team of guys on ours, RecyclePC, who take all kinds of things to put together working systems that they then give away – they are handy at fixing donated items if they are broken. Or, if your local group has a Cafe, ask on there if anyone has the knowledge to fix it, or can recommend someone who can.

    If not that, then I would be tempted to WEEE it and find somewhere (library? at school?) where you can print out pages when you need them, and pay a few pence per sheet, or maybe work out a LETS-style swap of some sort with a friend who has a printer. LMG is an ingenious and handy sort, I am sure she could suggest something 🙂

    It may be that something about the printer’s yellow ink delivery mechanism (e.g. the nozzle, or whatever tells the cartridge to open) is broken, which is making any cartridge leak yellow. We have used various refilled and generic cartridges and not had a problem.

  6. laura says:

    hmm. before u get the new printer it is worth checking if it comes with ink and all the cables, some dont come with all the leads and you end up having to get these in addition. Also as someone has already mentioned worth checking out the cost of the inks for when you do need to replace them and how many sheets u get per page.

    Also from an eco view

    if it has a economy print option (less ink used)
    if the cartridges/new printer itself is made of recyclable materials (im sure u already would do this)
    and what types of inks are being used, some are more harmful to the environment

  7. Jane says:

    So close to my heart this question!

    The amount of time it takes when you are not good at these things to check whether you can get them to run. I’m impressed with the work you’ve already done. Too many of these machines are being dumped at Reuse & Recycling centres without having simple tests done on them – just because people couldn’t be bothered and had the money to buy a new one or couldn’t find any information or help to do some simple checks. Hopefully people are thinking a little more now as many have to.

    There probably still isn’t enough good help and advice from the manufacturers – so for equipment like this it is worth checking who is good. Manufacturers make their money on the ink and special paper etc so never never just price on the cost of a machine and check sites such as Which before buying.

    I’m sure there are people who can and will spend the time on these machines and freecycling/freegling is a good way to find them. I’d always use the Reuse & Recycling centre as the very very last option.

  8. I know it sounds daft but have you also rebooted your PC with the printer turned off as that can sometimes reset the settings.

    I have some ink cartridges for an epsom if you let me know what model your is and what code cartidges it needs I may be able to let you have some.

    My epsom needed a major repair which I was told was over £70 and I was offered as nearly brand new HP for £10 with 2 ink cartridges (guess which won).

  9. LJayne says:

    Sometimes it is really hard. Our colour printer – lexmark – comes with just the one colour cartridge and these seem to perform better refilled (there is somewhere in town that refills for us) than the ones with the individual cartridges for colour mixing.

    So in some ways i’d be tempted to WEEEE it or Freecycle it – even for parts. Judging by our freegle group, the most weird things are happily taken for a new home! Then you could invest in something that is going to be more long-term going forward.

    But I know what you mean about the devils. My hubby is a big hoarder and very anti-purchasing and this has rubbed off on me in a big way, especially since we had the children. We mend and make do in all sorts of ways and so I’m loathe these days to throw out anything unless he’s had a go at a repair job first!

  10. Charity says:

    I had the same problem last month, and I freecycled it.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks everyone; it seems I’m not alone with this! I’ve decided to Freecycle it. SOmetimes you have to quit while you are ahead. Then I’m going to save up and instead of buying another inkjet, will go for a laser. I’ve seen one which prints on both sides, has draft quality and is supposed to be low price per print with long lasting toners. So I’m looking in to that one.

    Thanks Maisie; yes I did try all that, but thanks for the suggestion and it didn’t sound daft. Just incase you happen to have the cartridge; it’s an epson colour photo 915 – I will have one last crack at it if you think you can help me!

  12. Layla says:

    What a tough dilemma!

    Have you googled your model yet? (maybe + problems or actual decription of problem?) I found lots of info and even potential experts on forums, when I googled mine.
    Some are such experts they will tell you even without examining if it’s worth and possible to repair. So I’d at least ask first someone knowledgeable st a repair shop/service. (NOT at a store where they sell new, if possible!!) They will know about nozzles or such, sometimes they can be easy to repair.
    Some models may have problems others have encountered & one can learn from that (if a bunch of ppl report same problem and how it was/not sold, this can help you decide better.)

    We have similar dilemma with an old VHS (didn’ know before that heat destroys ’em), a neighbour told us where they are repaired, or that he could take a look before WEEEing.
    The scanner stopped working too, I was wondering what to do, googled frantically, we tried some info on forums, got in a neighbour, no go. Then cousin plugged in his portable HD in the back, and I read on digital camera site that the back USB ports usually work, if others don’t. Guess what? Our scanner now works. (And I felt really stupid – and of course exhilerated – after finding this out!)
    (We borrowed one before from someone who didn’t need it, then happily returned it just when she started needing it again.)

    I still have an old cell phone, worked well with new batteries for a few years, then rubbish batteries got sold though, and I’ve had one exchanged too. It’s for ‘backup’ still, maybe I can find better batteries online.

  13. Layla says:

    Also, it seems some inks may be better or worse, so google those too, maybe in connection with your model; though after a brief google someone says it’s better to use original cartridges w an epson (?) of course the sellers would always say that though

    About laser printing – in a book I read it’s very difficult/impossible to totally de-ink, so inkjets might be better for recycling. Do check, as this book is a bit dated now, maybe with modern technology…? also, I’ve seen black-specked recycled paper in a shop, so hmm?

    Maybe it’s also good to try to find out if the toner is okay (I became allergic to one), maybe there’s a list online, faintly remember something like that, or at least a list of problematic ones

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Hi Layla, sure I googled all about the challenges I was having and found nothing – I downloaded the manual and troubleshooted everything as explained. I already have a black and white laser, so I know we’re ok with it. It’s done literally thousands of pages with just one top up of toner. Amazing and SO much quicker to print than an ink jet

  15. Hi Mrs G the ink cartridges I have are code 1096 and 1097 for a stylus colour c42/c44/c46 so not sure if would be any good for you.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Oh well, we tried – thank you Maisie!

  17. obeowen says:

    I collect unwanted mobile phones/printer cartrides and printer toners to raise monies for Leuakaemia Research . I have a problem with toners and cartrides the recycler cannot use and charges for the safe dstruction. This sort of defeats the object of raising cash. Can any one help ?

  18. Jane says:

    @obeowen: Who isn’t making recyclable ones then?

  19. Poppy says:

    @obeowen: My husband uses the large cartridges in his job and there is usually a return label in the box to send them back. I believe the delivery company Lyreco, also take them.

  20. Jane says:

    @Poppy: We’ve had trouble with Xerox ones. There used to be a downloadable label with barcode on the website. Suddenly we couldn’t find it.

  21. obeowen says:

    No one will take once recycled cartridges They only want once used ones

  22. Jane says:

    @obeowen: So I wonder what the problem is? Are they saying they are not being made to a good enough standard to be refillable and reusable? Why not?

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