Biodegradable Ink Cartridges

Mike Davies | Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Printer ink and ink cartridges have been an environmental issue for years. The UK has an estimated 45 million cartridges binned each year ending up in landfill. These cartridges can take over 1,000 years to decompose as well as leaving toxic chemicals and microplastics in the soil and the environment.


Biodegradable inks will need to be able to be decomposed naturally either via a chemical reaction within the environment or by microorganisms breaking it down. There are two different types of ink that are used within printing ink cartridges:

Petroleum Based Ink

Petroleum based inks dry very fast and are currently the standard in any printing industry. They are however more expensive than their counterparts as well as having an aggressive impact on the environment.

These petroleum-based inks normally contain a high amount of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which cause issues with the environment. They will contain compounds such as toluene, benzene and xylene. These are all harmful to humans and animals, having these compounds in our environment will not only poison the environment but can also lead back to poisoning us humans.

Vegetable oil-based Ink

Vegetable oil-based inks such as Soy Inks are a much more environmentally friendly option. Soy inks are made up of soybeans, natural resins and waxes. These are all biodegradable and environmentally friendly compounds that can break down naturally in the environment leaving little to no toxic waste.

Soy based inks can not only in some cases be cheaper but also produce a much more vibrant colour range due to the soy oil rather than the thick petroleum oil. The only negative of soy-based inks is its dry time. It can take slightly longer for the ink to dry onto the paper when compared to petroleum-based inks.

Some soy and vegetable oil-based inks may still have a percentage of petroleum oil so it's always worth reading the ingredients.


Throw away ink cartridges take up a large portion of landfill each year. As mentioned previously it's estimated that in the UK alone there are 45 million ink cartridges thrown away each year, these cartridges will take hundreds if not thousands of years to break down while leaving toxic compounds within our soil. This is why we need to look into ways of incorporating biodegradable ink cartridges or reusable ink cartridges.

To reduce this waste, companies have started selling refillable ink cartridges, this allows the user to manually refill the cartridge not only saving money as they only have to buy the ink but also saving the environment a little more.

How do I dispose of old ink cartridges?

Standard ink cartridges will need to be disposed of correctly to ensure that they don't sit in landfill for hundreds of years. There are multiple ways of disposing/using these ink cartridges:

  • Find a recycling centre/facility that can recycle them for you
  • Using refillable ink cartridges
  • This will solve any issue of having to dispose of the plastic cartridges as well as saving money as you will only have to pay for the ink.
  • Send off to a recycling organisation
  • Companies such as will also pay for your recyclable waste.

As biodegradable ink cartridges are not fully commercial it is worth looking to getting some reusable ink cartridges.

Is ink environmentally friendly?

There are two main different types of Inks Petroleum Based Ink and Vegetable Based Ink, vegetable-based ink can be decomposed naturally leaving no harmful chemicals. Petroleum Based Inks will take hundreds of years to properly decompose but will also leave harmful and toxic compounds in our soils.

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