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Learn how ink cartridge recycling can help you raise money

This is an excerpt from Healthy and Sustainable Fundraising Activities by Jenine De Marzo,Anne Gibbone,Gregory Letter & Catherine Klein.

Ink Cartridge Recycling

Activity Description

This activity will not only raise a low to moderate level of funds but also benefit the environment and teach young people their role in protecting the world they live in. Millions of ink cartridges are thrown away every day, and several cups of oil are required to produce new ink cartridges from scratch. Refunds for used cartridges can range from a few cents to as much as $3 depending on the brand and ink color. A simple web search will identify where your group can turn in used ink cartridges. Most large chain business supply stores accept used cartridges and offer remuneration in the form of gift cards or cash rewards. Independent companies also found on the web offer cash or checks for your used cartridges.

This activity involves low-level knowledge, skills, and abilities on the part of young participants and adult leaders. It is a great beginner project and can be run concurrently with other fundraising projects.

Educational Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand the impact of recycling and reusing everyday materials.
  • Create their own announcements soliciting empty ink cartridges from their neighbors.
  • Interact and communicate with others (neighbors and other students).
  • Set and meet individual performance goals, and demonstrate productivity and accountability (i.e., when creating and distributing flyers and collecting used cartridges).

Adults will:

  • Mobilize students and organize their efforts with minimal hands-on time.
  • Model socially responsible behavior as well as environmental literacy.

The community will:

  • Benefit from the interest of local citizens in maintaining the integrity of the environment.
  • Experience increased cohesiveness from citizens working together.

Targeted Dimensions of Health

Social Mental Emotional Environmental

Standards Met

National Health Education standards 4, 6, and 8

21st century student outcomes:

Life and Learning and Information, Media, Career Skills Innovation Skills and Technology Skills

21st century interdisciplinary themes: Global awareness; financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; health literacy; environmental literacy

Age Level



Paper for flyers

Access to computer and printers

Markers or crayons

Recycling container (cardboard box or clean trash receptacle)

Plastic bags for collected cartridges

Recommended Procedures

1. This activity takes place over the course of nine weeks.

2. Identify a site or company that recycles ink cartridges.

3. Choose how the cartridges will be collected (door to door, at drop-off sites, or both).

4. Create and edit flyers. This can be done by students.

5. Decide when, where, and how to distribute flyers (e.g., neighborhoods, supermarkets, houses of worship, community centers).

6. Set a date for cartridge pickup. Choose two days in case of inclement weather, and instruct donors to leave cartridges on their doorsteps or porches for easy collection.

7. Volunteer collectors meet at the organization's central site (e.g., school, church, community center) to pick up their bags for collecting cartridges and to be assigned a collection area. They then go door to door in groups of two or three chaperoned by an adult if they are underage. Once their targeted areas have been canvassed, collectors return to the organization and turn in their cartridges.

8. The event director collects the cartridges, takes them to the recycling center, and collects the funds.

Event Preparation Time Line

Because this fundraiser is likely to be ongoing, we have set up the time line starting with the first activity going forward. All other activities have time lines that count backward.

Week 1

Young volunteers create the flyer soliciting donations of ink cartridges. They can make this on a computer or handwrite it. Flyers should provide a brief explanation as to who (e.g., Cub Scout group) is doing what (ink cartridge recycling) and why (e.g., to raise funds for a camping trip) and in what time frame (i.e., cartridges to be collected from doorsteps on [date] between the hours of [time] and [time]). Always provide an alternate means of contribution, such as monetary donations or donations of needed supplies.

Week 2

Young volunteers distribute flyers, and adult chaperones keep track of the addresses and businesses that have received flyers.

Weeks 3 through 8

This activity requires patience. We suggest that you allow six to eight weeks to elapse before collecting cartridges. You may want to distribute flyers to local businesses as well and direct them to a central drop-off site. E-mail blasts and automated phone messages can be sent a week before the collection date.

Week 9

Before sending them out to collect the cartridges, coach young volunteers in social skills such as shaking hands and expressing gratitude. After all the cartridges are collected, the director can bring or send them to the company chosen for reimbursement. Most companies give a check immediately. Find out ahead of time whether the company wants the cartridges to be separated by color, model, or make.

Postevent Processing and Evaluation

Discussion Questions for Students

What is the impact of recycling and reusing everyday materials?

What new computer skills did you learn from this activity?

How can community groups work together?

What is the appropriate salutation when greeting a neighbor?

Discussion Questions for Adults

What did you learn about mobilizing students and organizing their efforts?

Did you model socially responsible behavior?

Was the community supportive of this event?

How could this event have been more successful?

Sustainable Extension

This event can continue year round if community groups are aware of the event and your group has well-identified, clearly marked, and centrally located drop-off zones and collection points. Reminder notices can be sent out via e-mail blasts or signage in community areas.

Forms and Templates

Informational Flyer

Collection Data Sheet

Read more from Healthy and Sustainable Fundraising Activities By Jenine De Marzo, Anne Gibbone, Gregory Letter, and Catherine Klein.

More Excerpts From Healthy and Sustainable Fundraising Activities