College officials often face logistical and philosophical dilemmas in disposing of cast-off cellphones, tablets, computers, and printers.

“At a lot of universities—unless they have a centralized program in place or some sort of waste-management policy through their facilities department—it is really challenging to be able to recycle just about anything,” says Jennifer Sellers, sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University, in Conway, S.C., and a veteran professional in the recycling and waste-management industry. “It is enough just to get people to throw trash in the trash can, especially when things get hectic.”

Now a recycling company based in Erie, Pa., has started a nationwide program in which it pays colleges for spent ink and toner cartridges and small electronics, diverting devices away from landfills and into the $20-billion-a-year electronics-recycling market.