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Ink Waste: It’s Not Black and White

April 11, 2014

Regardless of whether you own a business or work for one, there’s at least one thing you’ll need–and use–sooner or later.


The ability to put words on paper and then disseminate that paper is something just about every business must do, which is why ink waste is as abundant as it is unavoidable. Here’s some of what you need to know:

The vast majority of lithographic inks are not considered hazardous wastes under state and federal law, but there are exceptions. If an ink contains pigments with heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, or chromium) or is mixed with solvents containing hazardous materials, then proper hazardous waste disposal of that ink becomes paramount. Given the amount of ink that offices go through, this process can be quite expensive, but businesses must meet local and federal requirements and regulations.

One option is to send ink to industrial boilers, which can be a cost-effective approach that minimizes cleanup issues and potential litigation in case of contamination. If you wish to ship to a landfill, the ink must be in a non-liquid state or stabilized in some capacity.

While ink can be burned or landfilled, it can also be recycled. Waste ink usually falls under one of two categories: uncontaminated and contaminated.

Uncontaminated ink describes ink that has not been used in a press fountain. This ink can be recycled, but it’s usually cheaper to reuse it. Contaminated ink, meanwhile, is ink that has been used in a press fountain–a process that involves contact with solvents, paper fibers and other ink colors. For contaminated ink to be recycled, it must be filtered, reconditioned, and reblended.

Contaminated or uncontaminated, there are numerous ways to reduce and reuse ink. Options include using standard ink sequences (from light ink to dark ink), assign certain colors (or special inks) to certain printers, and treat your ink like milk (don’t open a new container until the old one is gone).

When it comes to reusing or recycling ink, keep different types of ink separate; do not mix small amounts of old or excess ink with different colors; place and keep excess ink in properly sealed and labeled containers; mark these containers to prevent accidental disposal; and donate ink that you no longer use–especially to high schools, colleges, and universities.

Hazardous Waste Experts can assist you with your ink disposal, as well as advise you on your specific situation. For further assistance, contact Hazardous Waste Experts today at 800-936-2311 to speak with an expert.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.