It’s like a question some curious Grist reader might ask of Umbra, green guru extraordinaire: When your printer runs out of ink, what should you do with the empty cartridge? Turns out, plenty of schools and nonprofit organizations are collecting cartridges for recycling, motivated as much by good deals as good citizenship. Companies known as remanufacturers overhaul and refill inkjet and laser cartridges, then sell them at lower rates than the originals. One organization behind the recycling trend, the Funding Factory, says it has signed up 22,000 institutions, most of them schools, to send in empty ink cartridges (and also, more recently, cell phones). The institutions earn points for how many items they supply, and can redeem the points for cash, computers, or other school supplies. Overall, the Funding Factory program has given schools about $3 million in cash and equipment to date, and expects the number to rise to as much as $5 million by the end of the year. Other programs use similar setups to donate food to impoverished people.

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