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 user 2005-03-18 at 10:58:00 am Views: 33
  • #10926
    Used-up ink becomes useful school funds

    When the Toner in the big old printer here in the
    newsroom starts to run out of ink, most of us pretend not to notice.

    not that we’re lazy – well, maybe we’re a little lazy – but it’s mainly because
    we don’t exactly know what the toner is or where it’s located.

    worked at a lot of places in my life, and it’s been my experience that in every
    work environment, there is usually only one person who knows what to do when a
    printer, copier or fax machine starts running out of ink. And, you can bet the
    rent that person is not someone in charge. In fact, the higher up in the
    workplace food chain you go, the more worthless that person is when it comes to
    office-equipment maintenance.

    As it turns out, those of us who remain
    ignorant in all things toner have a chance to help out local schools or

    I know this now because I have a kid in school: Empty toner or
    ink-jet cartridges are worth money. Not a lot, of course, but if you collect
    enough of them over a year’s time, they can make a difference to a lot of

    Dave and Debbie Crocker have been collecting the empty ink
    cartridges from schools for several years. The couple ship the cartridges to
    companies all across the country that repair and recondition them for resale and

    Depending on the type of cartridge, it could be worth as much as
    $6.50 to a school. That is why collecting the ink containers is pretty much a
    volume business.

    “If you are trying to sell 10 cartridges, I don’t think
    anyone will talk to you. We sell them by the hundreds,” Dave said.

    said he and his wife are semi-retired. For a number of years, they ran a
    business called Lasertone Inc. in Joplin. That is where they were exposed to the
    value of empty toner cartridges.

    Dave wants to make clear that he and
    Debbie do make money by acting as the go-betweens for schools and the companies
    that repair and sell the used cartridges. Not much, but some, he

    “But we really do it for the schools,” he said. “We don’t have kids
    in school, but we have grandchildren coming up.”

    Crystal Heiskell is a
    secretary at Neosho Middle School who heads up the toner collection program. She
    said the school sends out reminders to parents asking them to bring in used

    “They sort of dribble in throughout the year,” she said. “We
    have different businesses who donate them, or individual parents send them

    The middle school, Crystal said, has been collecting the cartridges
    since the beginning of the 2003-04 school year. In that short time, she said,
    the school has earned more than $1,000. The money goes into the school’s
    activity account, and is used for special projects and events for the students.

    I guess I should point out here that in the past year and a half, I’ve
    hauled my share of toner cartridges to my daughter’s school. At first, I didn’t
    like hauling the ink cartridges to my daughter’s school, but then my wife told
    me that I did. So now I do. And really, the money comes in handy for the

    With the budget constraints facing most school districts, a lot
    of the little extra things – such as field trips or special reward days – for
    students have been eliminated, Dave said. The money schools make from recycling
    toner cartridges most often goes to pay for those extras.

    And it’s not
    just local schools that are benefiting , Dave said.

    “We work a couple of
    offices with Leggett & Platt, and they donate the money they earn from the
    ink cartridges to the American Cancer Society,” he said.

    The Carthage and
    Joplin libraries also have been aggressive in recycling cartridges, he

    There are a lot of great causes out there, and it just seems silly
    that people might be tossing those empty cartridges.

    Look, I still may
    not know what to do when our printer runs out of ink, but I do know what to do
    with the cartridge once someone figures out how to get the thing out. Well, I
    would, except the people who sell us our toner cartridges here have kids in
    school, too. So they get first dibs on them.

    If you have questions about
    how to get your school in the ink-cartridge recycling game, you can give Dave
    and Debbie a call at (417) 483-9660.