HP Ink Cartridges Washing up on Shores of U.K., Northern Europe after Container Spill

washed-up ink cartridge
This cartridge was found by Jean-Yves le Tollec in Mousterlin, Brittany.

The BBC reports that thousands of ink cartridges designed for use in Hewlett-Packard printers are believed to be washing up on shores around the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, France, Portugal, the Azores, and the Hebrides. The ink cartridges are believed to have been lost at sea more than a year ago.

The ink cartridges are constructed of plastic, which conservationists say presents a hazard for wildlife.

HP says it’s working on a financial donation to help the clean-up. In a statement, HP said that the cartridge spill was the result of an Atlantic storm that occurred more than a year ago. During that the storm, a number of ink cartridges were lost at sea. The company also said that it’s “unable to provide details on the number of cartridges or exact location” of their loss, but added that:  “Based on global standards, we can confirm there is no risk to sea life from the ink, as it is water-based. We are in the process of setting up a fund in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society to support the collection of the cartridges and very much appreciate the support of the local beach-cleaning organizations and individuals who have been doing so.”

HP has set up a free phone line and email recycling service for anyone finding the cartridges on a beach, stating that it’s committed to collecting and recycling the ink cartridges as quickly as possible.

Those who find the cartridges in the United Kingdom should contact HP at 0800 0969766 or ukoperations@erp-recycling.org, and at 1800 848 859 or info@erpcollect.ie in the Irish Republic.

Oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer believes the pattern of the washed-up cartridges indicates that a spill in the Gulf Stream resulted in a split in the flotsam, with one part of cartridge shipment heading south to the Azores, and the other splitting off to the north towards the United Kingdom, and possibly on to Norway and into the Arctic. Ebbesmeyer also estimates that about 370,000 ink cartridges were lost, based on the dimensions of a 40-foot container. “Beachcombers usually report some 3 percent of flotsam released at mid-ocean, so you might expect reports of some 10,000 cartridges,” he said.

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