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Earn Virgin Points by recycling ink cartridges with Tesco

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After a pause, Tesco and The Recycling Factory have relaunched their scheme to encourage you to recycle old printer ink cartridges.

You receive up 125 Tesco Clubcard points per cartridge you recycle. This means up to (125 x 2.5) 312 Virgin Points or £3.75 of credit, depending on how you spend the points. British Airways / Avios is no longer a Tesco Clubcard partner.

A trip down memory lane ….

Back in the olden days, ink cartridge recycling was an easy way to earn cheap Avios. The Recycling Factory accepted a very wide range of cartridges, and there were numerous companies selling empty cartridges in bulk on eBay.

You could order 100 cartridges for £50 or so, relabel the parcel when it arrived and assume that 90ish would be accepted for recycling, triggering up to 20,000 Avios.

Tesco also used to do exceptionally good bonus point deals on new ink cartridges. You could get cheap Avios by buying the cartridges purely for the bonus points – this 2013 deal, for example, got you Avios for 0.82p each and you still had the cartridges. These could be sold on eBay or sent off to The Recycling Factory who – despite being brand new and full – were happy to pay you even more points.

How does cartridge recycling work now?

The way the promotion works has just changed. You no longer post cartridges to The Recycling Factory.

This is how it works:

  • Check that your empty ink cartridges are on their list of acceptable ones – there is a calculator on their website here
  • Pick up a recycling envelope in-store (envelopes are also included automatically when you buy Tesco own-brand cartridges)
  • Insert the cartridge and fill out your details, choosing either up to 125 Clubcard points per cartridge or a charity donation
  • Drop the envelope into the recycling unit in your local large Tesco store

There is a limit of 100 cartridges per Clubcard account per calendar year.

The Recycling Factory will decide whether or not your cartridge is in a suitable condition for recycling, and you need to agree that it can throw away your cartridge if it does not pass its tests. It is worth saying that the company has been running this scheme for a decade with Tesco and has a reputation for playing fair.


This is not a bad deal, allowing you to be environmentally conscious whilst also picking up some Virgin Points, credit or whatever else you choose.

It is a decent return. A standard HP301 black cartridge, for example, is worth 100 Clubcard points. This is 250 Virgin Points or £3 of credit. Given that an HP301 Black is around £16 new on Amazon, it is a decent return.

PS. If you need to buy ink cartridges on a regular basis, remember that Viking is a Nectar partner and you can convert those points to Avios. Details of the Viking / Nectar partnership are here. You will currently receive 1,000 bonus Nectar points (625 Avios) on your first £30+ order.

PPS. If you are really bored at home today, clicking here will do an automatic eBay search for bulk sellers of empty ink cartridges. You might want to do the maths on whether buying in bulk for future recycling still makes sense. Remember that you earn 7x the usual Nectar points on eBay purchases made by 14th February.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (June 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (32)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Nick Burch says:

    Does anyone know if it is possible to pick up the envelope in smaller Tesco Metro stores which sell the odd ink cartridge, or do you have to go to one of the big ones to get the envelope?

  • Mikeb7499 says:

    Any idea why some HP cartridges are not part of the offer? Mine cost an eye-watering £100 a set (black plus 3 colours) so would be great to get something back!

  • 747_Brat says:

    I am on a HP Instant Ink monthly plan. Am I obliged to send the empty cartridges back to HP under the scheme, or can I send them to The Recycling Factory?

    • Anuj says:

      Nope you can send them to recycle however suspiciously they last so long compared to normal cartridges !

      • Rich says:

        +1 I signed up 5 years ago on the £1.99 plan and I’m still on my original catridges (the first shipment, not the ones that came with the printer).

        Probably only a handful of pages per month, but most cartridges would have dried up by now.

    • Fenny says:

      You can send them direct for recycling. No need to send them back to HP.
      I have 3 printers (me, Ma & Pa) on HP Ink. My only issue is that Ma & Pa use their printers so infrequently that the ink dries up and when I’m 100 miles away, I can’t sort it out!

      • Mark says:

        You need to train them to print a page of black at regular intervals (since they are not using the printer much then they will not be fully using their allowance).

      • Rich says:

        If their printer is on WiFi, you can log onto their HP account and run through a couple of maintenance tasks. Clean the print heads and print a test page etc.

        Best to warn them first though

        • Fenny says:

          That’s a useful idea, thanks. I’ll get my brother to sort this out, as he’s more likely to remember.

          What I really need to do is take their 2 printers off my account and pass them to Bro to set up as free accounts, then get the cartridges sent to him. Because they’re on my account, they can only be sent to my address, which doesn’t help when I can’t visit them.

  • Fenny says:

    The change in process is a bit of a pain. I’d picked up a load of recycling envelopes last time I went into the big Tesco in Sheffield (October), but having looked online at how to recycle with TRF, I just bunged them in an old box some USB cables came in from Amazon and posted them off. I’ve since chucked the envelopes. I have no idea where the nearest Tesco will be that does recycling – probably either Rugby or Northampton, neither of which I go to these days.

    And I have a handful of cartridges that TRF won’t take. No idea why, as they are practically the same shape as the ones they do take.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      They need to be able sell them is the key….

      • Fenny says:

        If all HP models in a similar product range took the same cartridges, it would be more use! For years, I’ve had similar models of PSC machines to Mum (wired, then wifi), yet they have always had different cartridges.

  • ADS says:

    “Remember that you earn 7x the usual Nectar points on eBay purchases made by 14th February.”

    Anybody know if this is triggered by two separate purchases totalling £15 or if it needs to be a single purchase ?

    • Fenny says:

      Single purchase, but you can add more than one item to your basket until it hits the £15 minimum, then check out.

  • Chris H says:

    You will have to be VERY careful if you are buying cartridges to get AVIOS.
    A lot of the most popular cartridges are not listed, so if you buy the wrong ones, they will be worthless on this recycling site. I have just checked both my Canon, and both my older HP printer cartridges, and they do not accept any of them.

  • David says:

    After checking they don’t offer points on any Brother cartridges 😳😳😳😳😳

  • LostAntipod says:

    i asked for the envelopes in my local large Tesco supermarket – they had zero idea what I was talking about, insisted that print cartridge recycling had stopped years ago…..

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