A recent newsletter sent to homes by the largest refuse and recycling collection company in western Ventura County had some bad news about recycling. Chinese restrictions on imported recyclables have reduced the marketability of paper and plastic collected from our curbside carts.

Although local sorting centers have slowed lines, added pickers and found buyers in other countries, keeping our recyclables recyclable during a period of declining markets requires making them more attractive to buyers. To help, the message to users of curbside carts and business recycling bins is to reduce contamination of recyclables. Examples cited for exclusion from recycling collections are Styrofoam (polystyrene), bubble wrap, plastic bags, straws and disposable utensils.

While recyclers adjust to declining international markets, the local market for reusables has increased in two important areas. Domestic markets are doing great business in reselling used recording media – such as CDs and DVDs, as well as used printing media – such as laser toner cartridges and used ink jets.

You can sell or trade DVDs, CDs and vinyl records at many local record stores, and even cassettes and VCR tapes are still accepted for donation at most local thrift stores. A few tips when selling: Match media with covers, do not include scratched items, and call first to set a time for your arrival. Some stores have only one buyer and accept items only when that staff person is available. I took 265 DVDs and CDs to the largest used record store in Ventura County, and it bought 160 of them for $95.30. I took the remaining 105 to two smaller stores, but neither wanted any.

As for printing media, each toner cartridge is worth around two dollars credit in the largest retailer trade-in programs. Another option for recycling is mail-back programs. Cartridge manufacturers offer shipping labels for free mail-back without payment, but some online cartridge dealers show on their websites long lists of which used laser toner and inkjet cartridges they pay for, provided customers ship at least 20 per box and meet other requirements.

Recycling Advantage, one of these online collectors paying for used cartridges, listed prices for used laser toner cartridges ranging from 25 cents to $3.75 per unit and inkjet cartridges ranging from 5 cents to $1.80 each. Unused cartridges from surplus or liquidation, still in their sealed bags, have far more value. If you switch printers but still have unused cartridges in sealed bags, contact a company like Galaxy Surplus in Ojai. Inkjet cartridges retain value for only three years, but laser toner cartridges have no expiration dates. Planet Green Cartridges in Chatsworth helps schools and nonprofits run fundraisers collecting inkjets and certain electronics.

Refilling your own cartridge is also a great way to save money. Some models can be refilled for a fee at participating Walgreens or Costco photo departments. Others can be refilled at home with kits purchased online. Most refillable cartridges have two refill holes or a single refill port under the product label sticker.