The piecemeal process of recycling inkjet cartridges may be centralised soon if a trial in Japan involving six industry giants bears fruit.

The clean half dozen, including Dell, Lexmark and HP, this week started a trial that has placed collection boxes for ink cartridges of all six manufacturers in 3,600 post offices across Japan [Japanese link].

Posters encouraging customers to drop off their used cartridges are in place - they also explain that the entire collection is sorted and each piece of plastic is returned to its maker for recycling.

Current rates are low

The current system in Japan and many Western countries relies on individual companies placing collection boxes in electronics shops and supermarkets.

This yields a low 10 per cent recycling rate on all cartridges purchased - a figure the Japanese scheme aims to improve considerably. Given that Japan alone uses 200 million of the disposable ink shots a year, the scope for improvement is clear.

Although the two Tokyo post offices we visited this afternoon had yet to see their first ink deposit, the firms involved all have high hopes, saying they may take the scheme overseas if it works well.