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HQ H011665

October 2, 2007



TARIFF NO.: 3915.90.0090

Mr. Andy Zeng
Americas Customs Compliance
Hewlett-Packard Company
3000 Hanover Street
Bldg. 20 ms 1065
Palo Alto, CA 94304

RE: Classification of used inkjet cartridges, with flexible circuitry removed or destroyed

Dear Mr. Zeng:

This is in response to your request on behalf of the Hewlett-Packard Company (“HP”) for a binding classification ruling

Although you have requested that CBP provide Internal Advice on this issue, we are treating your submission as a request for a binding ruling because requests for Internal Advice are submitted to Headquarters through a CBP field office/port. See 19 U.S. Customs and Border Protection Regulations, part 177.11 (19 CFR 177.11). , received on April 20, 2007, by the National Commodity Specialist Division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP “). At issue is the proper classification of used inkjet cartridges, the flexible circuitry of which has been removed or rendered inoperable, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS “). Your request, with samples appended, was forwarded to this office for a response. In reaching our decision we have taken into consideration additional information submitted to this office during September 2007.


Based on the information provided, an inkjet cartridge is an electromechanical device designed to precisely position ink droplets on a page to create images or text. As a part of this process, ink from a cartridge’s reservoir flows to a firing chamber where a resistor on a printed circuit board (“PCB”) heats the ink to its boiling point. The PCB is attached to ink channels (the “barrier”) which is, in turn, attached to an orifice plate; collectively, these parts are known as the “printhead”. The heated ink generates an air bubble that exerts pressure on the ink which is then ejected through the orifice plate. As each ink droplet is ejected, more ink flows to replenish the firing chamber. The process repeats at a frequency of several thousand hertz.

According to the submitted information, communication between a printer and the firing resistor on the printhead is achieved through flexible circuitry (“flex”). Flex is a thin sheet of plastic material with copper “wires” painted on to it. The wires are very thin (14 microns), and connect the printhead circuitry to contact pads that are also connected to the printer. Once printheads are attached to the flex they are known as tab-head assemblies (“THA”).

You claim that any interruption to the electrical paths between the contact pads and the firing resistor will render an ink cartridge inoperable. In addition, you claim that cutting and removing the flex will interrupt the circuitry between the contact pads and the firing resistors and will render a cartridge inoperable and irreparable. It is the intention of HP to import used inkjet cartridges that are inoperable and irreparable.

In your submission you provide a detailed explanation of the method by which HP proposes to make a used inkjet cartridge inoperable and irreparable. In the main, a blade will be inserted between the flex and the plastic cartridge housing so that the flex can be pried and scraped from the cartridge. Any flex that is resistant to the above process will be punctured so that a visible hole is created in the flex. In sum, you believe that after the flex is cut the cartridge would be irreparable because:

Replacement of the damaged flex would be a complex operation involving precise removal of the flex in order to avoid damage to the ink pathways on the printhead, which could create problems such as clogged ink channels or printhead misalignment. The precision required for this operation would make this process not economically viable.

Repairing cut flex by soldering the severed printed wires, which are only 14 microns thick, is impossible or not economically viable.

You also informed us that after the flex is removed from a cartridge it will be recycled, if this option exists in the relevant jurisdiction, and remain in that jurisdiction. The plastic component of the cartridge will be eventually recycled into new HP cartridges; however, we are not told in what jurisdiction this will occur. If the flex is damaged by cutting or other means but remains attached to the cartridge, it will be imported into the U.S. in that condition. You state that, in these situations, the amount of metal remaining on the cartridge will be “very small”. After importation the flex will be ground along with the cartridges and material will be reclaimed through smelting.

In response to questions concerning the metal content of a cartridge, you informed CBP that the flex, the orifice plate and the die all contain metals. The flex contains copper and gold, the die contains gold, tantalum and aluminum deposits, and the orifice plate is made of nickel and palladium. As a percentage of the total weight of an empty cartridge, the breakdown of these metals is as follows: copper 0.3068%, gold 0.0063%, nickel 0.0263%, palladium 0.0033%. Other constituents (plastic, labels, foam, filters, ink, aluminum, etc.) make up 99.6572% of the weight of an empty cartridge. As a percentage of the original cost of manufacture per cartridge, gold is 0.305%, copper is 0.0041%, nickel is 0.0015%, and palladium is 0.0660%. You also calculated that the total reclaimed value for the gold component would be approximately $0.05 and approximately $0.01187 for the palladium component per cartridge, based on current market prices. This data is drawn from the family of cartridges most sold by HP.

HP believes that a used inkjet cartridge imported without flex, or imported with flex that has been cut or damaged so that its circuitry is irreparably interrupted, is classifiable as scrap or waste.


Are inkjet cartridges, the flex of which has been cut or otherwise damaged, classifiable as “scrap” or “waste” under the HTSUS?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs 2 through 6 may then be applied in order.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

3915 Waste, parings and scraps, of plastics 3915.90.00 Of other plastics ..
3915.90.0090 Other ..

8443 Printing machinery used for printing by means of plates, cylinders and other printing components of heading 8442; other printers, copying machines and facsimile machines, whether or not combined; parts and accessories thereof: Parts and accessories:
8443.99 Other:
Parts and accessories of printers:
8443.99.20 Parts of printer units of subheading 8443.32.10 specified in additional U.S. note 2 to this chapter: .. 8443.99.2010 Ink cartridges ..

We note that CBP has previously classified used inkjet cartridges. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (“HQ”) 966673, December 22, 2003. The merchandise in HQ 966673 was described as being composed of plastics, with the flex containing copper, gold, silver and/or palladium. The flex was not removed or damaged. CBP found that the used cartridges were not waste or scrap because, in their imported condition, they were “well suited to refurbishment and refilling”. We also found that, “[w]ithout being damaged or defective, the cartridges are designed and dedicated for use as a part of a printer.” Consequently, we classified the merchandise at issue in subheading 8473.30.3000, HTSUSA, (now, 8443.90.2010, HTSUSA (2007)) which provides for parts and accessories of the machines of heading 8471, other parts for printers. HP believes that the used cartridges at issue differ from those classified in HQ 966673 because of the removal of or the damage to the flex and should be classified as plastic waste or scrap under heading 3915, HTSUS.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the HTSUS at the international level. While not legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80. EN 39.15 provides, in relevant part:

The products of this heading may consist of broken or worn articles of plastics, clearly not usable for their original purposes[.]

The heading also excludes waste, parings and scrap, of plastics, containing precious metal or precious metal compounds, of a kind used principally for the recovery of precious metal (heading 71.12).

There is no definition of “waste” and “scrap” provided in the text of Chapter 39. EN 39.15 explains that waste and scrap are “clearly not usable for their original purposes”. CBP has previously considered the courts’ definitions of “waste” and has noted that though these definitions vary, they “center on the inability of the waste or scrap to retain any of its original purpose.” See HQ 966673, December 22, 2003, for a discussion of these definitions, which is hereby incorporated by reference.

Applying this understanding of waste and scrap to the used plastic inkjet cartridges at issue, we find that the cartridges, in their imported condition, are described by these terms. This is because once the flex is removed or is cut or otherwise destroyed so that communication between the printer and the printhead cannot be achieved, a cartridge is no longer suitable for use for its original purpose. This finding is supported by the explanation of waste and scrap in EN 39.15. Accordingly, we find that because the cartridges at issue are no longer suitable for use as inkjet cartridges when imported, they are precluded from classification under heading 8443, HTSUS, by the terms of that heading and are instead provided for in heading 3915, HTSUS, as plastic waste and scrap.

Further, in instances in which the flex has been removed entirely from the imported cartridges, we find that the only use of the cartridges is for the recovery of their plastic materials. Likewise, when the flex has been damaged but remains attached to the cartridges, we find that the cartridges are only suitable for plastic reclamation purposes. EN 39.15 explains that plastic waste and scraps containing precious metal or precious metal compounds of a kind used principally for the recovery of precious metal are to be classified in heading 7112, HTSUS. Legal Note (4) to Chapter 71 defines “precious metal” as “silver, gold and platinum”; in turn, “platinum” is defined as “platinum iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium.” In this instance, the precious metal component of the entire cartridge amounts to only 0.0096%, by weight, and 0.06667%, by value, of an empty cartridge. Based on these factors, we conclude that the cartridges at issue are not of the kind used principally for the recovery of precious metal and, therefore, are not excluded from classification under heading 3915, HTSUS.


By application of GRI 1, used inkjet cartridges which have had their flexible circuitry cut or otherwise destroyed are classified in heading 3915, HTSUS. They are specifically provided for in subheading 3915.90.0090, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Waste, parings and scrap, of plastics: Of other plastics: Other.” The 2007 column one, general rate of duty is free.

Duty rates are provided for your convenience and subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to entry documents filed at the time the goods are entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the CBP officer handling the transaction.


Gail A. Hamill, Chief
Tariff Classification and Marking Branch

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