Business Recycling News

Printer cartridges to art supplies - the journey of used printer ink

By Nicholas Scaltrito 10 May 2023

As more businesses understand the benefits of a circular economy, looking at successful examples of this process becomes important to its continued success. A particular success story is the zero-waste journey of printer cartridges from collection and recycling to repurposing into new products. 

Since 2003, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and its program partner, Close the Loop, have been delivering world class product stewardship and resource recovery solutions for printer cartridge waste. From these products, Close the Loop makes end products like TonerPlasTM , a premium asphalt additive, and eWood, a plastic timber alternative. What makes this process truly great, in terms of the circular economy, is its ability to inspire innovative business solutions to our waste as was the case with Lousy Ink.   

Lousy Ink is the world’s first 100% recycled artist ink. Started as a two-person commitment to reducing unconscious waste, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark has helped them promote more sustainable forms of artmaking and provide an alternative to your leftover ink.


The connection between Close the Loop and Lousy Ink started in 2017 when Oli Ruskidd was given a vial of waste ink by his uncle, who works at the Close the Loop recycling facility. Together with his friend and business partner, Mike Eleven, it was determined that this waste ink could be turned into something that could be sustainable and accessible to the art community. 


For Lousy Ink, the process of developing a business that encapsulated the circular economy easily aligned with their values.  “We’ve always had a pretty D.I.Y approach to our art, so turning trash into treasure came as second-nature to us,” Oli says, “Seeing the literal tonnes of ‘waste ink’ being generated by recycling printer cartridges really motivated us to give this overlooked resource a second chance at life.”  


Lousy Ink’s vision is to turn waste into inspiration by recycling printer cartridge ink into sustainable art materials. Working in collaboration with Close the Loop and Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’s collection program, they help divert waste generated by millions of printer cartridges across Australia. By engaging with the creative community, they can not only inspire others with shared passions to engage with the circular economy, but they can also educate on the benefits of using waste as a resource. Having already diverted thousands of tonnes of waste ink from going to landfill, Lousy Ink is helping show that repurposing waste is simply a new way of creating something different – and that sometimes different is better. 

We saw Lousy Ink as an opportunity to do more than what we could’ve done alone, and reach more people with a positive message. Even though we’re ‘just artists’, we’re trying to fight the climate crisis alongside the experts, activists and younger generations who will inherit this planet after us.


The circular economy works when manufactured resources are designed to no longer generate waste when they meet their end-of-life. Product stewardship schemes, like Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, are one of the methods that ensures there is a solution for even the hardest to recycle products. Through the product take-back, resource recovery, and reuse initiatives with Close the Loop, millions of products have been diverted from landfill and converted into valuable new materials.  

Once at Close the Loop, the printer cartridges are crushed down into their baser components of metal and plastic. These materials are then processed into asphalt additive, eWood, or new printer cartridges. A by-product of this process, however, is that the ‘waste’ cartridges come with leftover reserves of ink. This ink is filtered, to separate it from the plastic, and sent to Lousy Ink where it becomes their range of pens and ink. Having avenues for reuse in the market creates incentives for innovation in these areas, allowing for other businesses to follow suit. 



  • Lousy Ink started in 2017 as a solution to the ink waste that was generated as a by-product of printer cartridge recycling. 

  • Lousy Ink is a prime example of the circular economy in action. It helps facilitate the zero waste to landfill guarantee of Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and Close the Loop. 

  • Over 85,000 litres worth of ink has been collected and stored since day one. 

  • Lousy Ink gives artists of all levels the platform to flourish, whilst helping keep our planet green along the way. 

  • Cartridges 4 Planet Ark estimates that enough ink has been recycled to fill almost 7,000 bathtubs. Diverting it from landfill prevents it from leeching toxic chemicals into ground soil. 

Running a sustainably conscious and community-first business has provided Lousy Ink the opportunity to grow as a modern business in a circular economy. Knowledge of the recycling industry has enabled them to work together with experts to come up with creative and scalable ideas to change the world for the better. The benefit of having businesses aware of the life cycle of their products encourages more responsible practices in the market. 

They are able to include the message of sustainability in initiatives that engage the local art community. By hosting a range of art exhibitions, they not only raise funds for charitable organisations but also inspire artists to create using Lousy Ink. Making the connection between meaningful change and personal engagement allows tangible and approachable examples of the circular economy to make its way into mainstream consciousness. 

Through the years, the awareness of the recycling industry has been able to expand the opportunities for sustainable product development. In recent years, Lousy Ink has expanded their offerings from artist ink, available in bottles and vials, to a range of fineliner pens, which are made from recycled plastics. These fineliner pens are now being sold in Officeworks, encapsulating the full course of a circular economy. It’s one of the places where you can recycle your empty printer cartridges and purchase the end product that has been created out of its waste materials. Finding a local manufacturer to work with waste plastics was initially difficult for Lousy Ink but, with the support of businesses in this space, will become easier as the ongoing development of repurposed materials enters the market.

You can support innovative ideas like Lousy Ink through Cartridges 4 Planet Ark or other product stewardship schemes that make the most of used resources.

Photo credits belong to Lousy Ink

Nicholas Scaltrito
Nick joined Planet Ark in 2021 coming from a background of graphic design and marketing communications. A self-described “jack-of-all-trades’, Nick likes to channel his helpful nature and enthusiasm for change in all aspects of life from his social life and work to his community volunteering.