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HP mixes plastic bottles, other materials into ink cartridges

In a past life, that printer cartridge of yours could have been G.I. Joe.

Hewlett-Packard says it has begun to manufacture ink cartridges with some of the stuff in your home recycling bin.

The multi-resin process, devised by HP and chemistry specialists Lavergne Group and Butler-McDonald, essentially allows HP to mix in plastic from discarded printer cartridges with lower-grade plastics used in objects like Mountain Dew bottles or Night Ranger CD cases. Broadening the type of plastics that can be used increases the amount of recycled materials HP ultimately puts into new products. (The metals inside printer cartridges, meanwhile, get recycled too.)

So far, HP has manufactured more than 200 million cartridges with plastic obtained from the multi-resin process. In all, HP consumed about 5 million pounds of this plastic last year and will double the amount this year, it says.

Between 70 and 100 percent of the plastic in a new cartridge can be recycled material, the company said.

HP has also discussed using multi-resin recycling for other products. The company runs an electronics recycling center, too. Right now, HP mostly just tries to recover its operating costs on the recycling center, but execs have hinted it could become a profit center. Other PC manufacturers are opening up recycling facilities as well.

Other companies, such as Fujitsu, have experimented with organic, corn-based plastics that are biodegradable. While sturdy, bioplastics also tend to cost more.