Ink can contain a number of toxic metals and is a form hazardous liquid waste. Ink should never be disposed of in open drains or landfill but recycled or reused to lower waste disposal costs, maximise resource use and avoid environmental contamination.
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A variety of inks are used in printing processes some of which contain toxic chemicals and metals. In particular metallic pigments often contain cadmium, bright colours contain chromium or copper and less commonly some inks still contain lead. Some waste ink may also be contaminated with cleaning solvents. If inks are disposed of through open drains or into landfill as liquid waste these toxic metals can accumulate the soil or leach into the groundwater system, impacting on human, animal and aquatic ecosystem health. Ink waste creates a disposal cost for the printer, but also represents a less than optimum use of purchased raw materials. By recycling, reusing or refilling inks where possible this can reduce waste management costs, maximize the use of resources and offers savings compared the cost of purchasing new virgin ink products.
- Ink can be recycled on site by mixing coloured inks to produce high quality black ink. Coloured inks are of such a high quality, when mixed they produce a richer, darker black tone. Computer software is also available that allow printers to mix leftover ink to create custom colours.
- Alternatively there are a chemical recyclers who may recycle or safely disposal of ink liquid waste.
What Happens When It’s Recycled?
Whether ink can be reused or recycled is dependent upon the quality of the ink waste that is generated. Waste ink can be classified in into categories.
- Uncontaminated, excess ink - this category includes ink that has not been used in the press and can be easily reused.
- Contaminated - this ink has been used in the press fountain and is commonly contaminated with paper fibers, solvents, or other colors of ink. For these inks to be recycled, they typically must be filtered, reconditioned and