Laser printers may be a secretary's friend, but they're an environmentalist's headache. Customers throw out more than 20 million empty toner cartridges from them each year. Since the cartridges include parts that need maintenance, printer makers have opted for the disposable design to reduce downtime. The problem is that they add greatly to the trash dumps of plastic and metal.
But now, some companies are cashing in on the discarded toner cartridges. Laser Technologies & Services in West Chester, Pa., tests and replaces the parts, refills them with toner, and sells the refurbished cartridges for 40% or so less than the $80 to $130 a new cartridge costs. In some cases, LST pays as much as $10 for used ones. And now it's offering an offbeat marketing incentive: Under its "toner to donor" program, for every cartridge returned, it's donating a dollar to charities that benefit needy children.