Can Felt Tip Pens Be Recycled?

A felt-tip pen is something that most households use every day. We go through a couple of these marker-like pens every year, especially if there are school kids in the family! I bet you can imagine how it will add up if you were to count all the felt-tip pens every household throws away every year! But what if these pens could be recycled instead of ending up at the rubbish dump? 

You can recycle felt-tip pens through companies like TerraCycle. The plastic parts of felt-tip pens are reformatted and sent to manufacturing companies, where they are processed into a variety of new plastic end-products. Felt-tip pens can also be recycled by repurposing them through DIY projects. 

It is pretty amazing to see how many items can be recycled nowadays. Every small thing that gets repurposed instead of completely disposed of makes a difference! Let’s see how the process of recycling felt-tip pens works. 

Why Is Recycling Felt Tip Pens Important? 

Recycling something as simple as a felt-tip pen may seem unnecessary, but it can make a huge difference if every person were to do it! It’s much easier to do something when you know why you’re doing it. Here’s why recycling a felt-tip pen is important:

1. Recycling Maximises The Use You Get Out Of The Pen

As you probably know, plastic waste has become a huge problem for our planet over the past few years. Recycling is necessary to protect our environment from being polluted with tons of plastic by enabling us to reuse everyday items instead of dumping them in a landfill. 

It simply doesn’t make sense to destroy something completely when it can be processed in a way that enables us to manufacture a new item out of it. That old, used-up felt-tip pen that you want to throw away can be turned into something useful again! Isn’t that amazing? 

2. Recycling Felt-Tip Pens Reduces Plastic Waste

The majority of the felt-tip pens and markers that we throw away are made out of – you guessed it – plastic! Despite digital technology becoming so prevalent, households and businesses still buy millions of pens each year. Therefore, millions of pens get used up and thrown away each passing year. 

Since a pen is so small and contains so little plastic, you may be questioning whether it is necessary to go through all the trouble of recycling it. However, the important thing to note here is not the size of the pen or the amount of plastic being recycled. You need to consider the time it takes that small amount of plastic to decompose – a very, very, very long time that is! 

We must be all made aware of how we can dispose of the pens to reduce the plastic entering our landfills and having a negative impact on the environment. 

3. Recycling Felt-Tip Pens Reduces Air Pollution And Toxicity

Another critical factor to consider is the toxicity of pens. Did you know that pens release toxic dioxins and other gasses when they are incinerated in landfills? So, you can see that we are not just dealing with accumulated plastic waste here. Preventing harmful air pollution and preserving air quality play a huge role in preserving our planet and ecosystems. 

When you recycle your felt-tip pens, you prevent them from entering the landfills and undergoing incineration. This way, the amount of harmful gasses released during the landfill incineration process is reduced. It may seem insignificant to some, but there is no doubt that this small act will positively impact our planet in the long term!

Can Felt Tip Pens Be Recycled? 

Despite being made out of plastic, pens aren’t allowed in the regular plastic recycling process. This is due to the fact that they contain metal and ink, both of which can be toxic and also end up contaminating other plastics. 

Thankfully, though, times have changed, and recycling felt-tip pens and other types of pens has become possible! 

Where To Recycle Old Felt-Tip Pens And Markers 

One of the companies that made the recycling of used pens possible is TerraCycle, a private recycling business based in New Jersey. TerraCycle launched the ‘Writing Instruments Recycling Program’ that recycles used felt-tip pens and other pens for free in order to protect the environment. They have drop-off points in over 20 countries within Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas! 

Big brands like Dixon and BIC have openly announced their partnership with TerraCycle to ensure that consumers dispose of their used felt-tip pens and other writing instruments responsibly. 

An added benefit of recycling your felt-tip pens through a program like TerraCycle is that it won’t cost you a dime to recycle your old pens! We elaborate on how you can go about recycling your pens below. 

How To Recycle Felt-Tip Pens With TerraCycle

TerraCycle has made it easy for us to recycle used pens. Since their Writing Instruments Recycling Program is sponsored by pen manufacturers, they can offer their services for free to those wanting to use their recycling program. 

So, how do you go about sending your old felt-tip pens to TerraCycle? 

Find A Drop-Off Location In Or Near Your City

The easiest way to recycle your old pen is to search for a TerraCycle public drop-off point near you. As mentioned above, the program is available in over 20 countries already. If you are lucky enough to be based in one of these countries, you should have no problem finding a drop-off point. 

To do this, simply go onto TerraCycle’s website and go to “find a drop-off point” in the menu. Enter your location, and a few public drop-off points should pop up. 

Simply bring your old, used felt-tip pens to the drop-off location and throw them into the collection box at the site. TerraCycle will handle it from there!

Sign Up For A Free Terracycle Recycling Box

Another way in which you can recycle your pens without incurring extra costs is by ordering one of TerraCycle’sTerraCycle’s free recycling boxes online. However, know that there may be a waiting list for enrollment if their program is full at the time. 

If you manage to receive one of their free boxes, all you need to do is discard all your used felt-tip pens in the box instead of the rubbish bin. If you work at an office, then take the box to the office and have all the employees at the office utilize it. Before you know it, the box will be full, and you will have saved the planet from a whole box of plastic waste! 

You can then send the full recycling box to TerraCycle. All you need to do is sign into your TerraCycle account online and download a free pre-paid shipping label to add to your box when you mail it to them. Recycling your used felt-tip pens has never been so easy!

Purchase A Zero Waste Box From TerraCycle

If the free recycling box program happens to be full, you can invest in one of TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes For Pens, Pencils, And Markers. Once your box arrives, you can start filling it up with your used felt-tip pens and markers. 

When your box is full and ready for shipping, you follow the same steps as you would with the free box. Go ahead and download a prepaid UPS shipping label from your TerraCycle account and affix it to the box before you mail it. 

What Happens To Recycled Felt Tip Pens?

Once the recycling box reaches the recycling company, the shipment is weighed, and the materials it contains are sorted according to metals, plastics, glass, rubber, organics, etc. Felt-tip pens are considered plastics (since the metal parts and felt-tips must be removed before recycling). 

Plastics that go through TerraCycle’s recycling program are usually shredded or ground until they are significantly reduced in size. The smaller plastic particles are melted and processed into flakes, pellets, or powder. 

These reformatted plastics are sold to manufacturing companies, who then use the plastic from the pens to create a new end-product. Examples of end products made from recycled plastic in felt-tip pens include plastic storage containers, plastic shipping pallets, watering cans, outdoor furniture, flooring tiles, plastic tubes for construction, and more! 

Successfully creating a new product out of used felt-tip pens completes its recycling journey and plays a major role in preserving our planet and environment. 

What Parts Of The Pen Can Be Recycled? 

There is a reason why felt-tip pens (and other types of pens) cannot go into the regular recycling bins. The pens consist of metal parts and ink that cannot mix with other items in the recycling process. Only the plastic components of the pens can safely be recycled and repurposed. 

Fortunately, recycling programs like TerraCycle’s Writing Instruments Recycling Program have their recycling system set up to remove the “harmful” parts of the pen which cannot enter the recycling process. These are the metal parts of the pen, the felt tips of the pen, and the refills that are contaminated with ink.

We recommend that you remove the ink refill from the barrel, as well as the metal and felt tips containing dried ink from your used pens, before you discard them in the recycling box. This is required for your recycled items to be accepted into the recycling process.  

Can All Types Of Felt Tip Pens Be Recycled? 

If you’re familiar with recycling, you know that there are rules and guidelines on how to go about it. Recycling bins always have labels on them that provide detail on what you “may” and “may not” throw into the bin. This ensures that the recyclable items do not get contaminated and contributes to a successful and efficient recycling system. 

You may want to know whether all the different types of felt-tip pens are recyclable. Who fits the bill, and who doesn’t? Fortunately, all types of felt-tip pens are acceptable in the TerraCycle recycling process! In fact, nowadays, pretty much any writing instrument you can think of can be recycled. There are certain items that are not accepted, e.g., glue sticks, rules, cutting objects, and erasers. This means that none of your pens have to go to waste! 

You may also be wondering whether the brand of the pen determines whether it can enter the recycling process or not. The good news is that TerraCycle’s program accepts any brand of felt-tip pen or marker or highlighter. So, it doesn’t matter which brand of felt-tip pen you prefer to write with because TerraCycle’s recycling process doesn’t discriminate! 

Recycle Old Felt-Tip Pens By Repurposing Them

By definition, recycling means converting what is regarded as waste into something purposeful. So if you cannot make use of a recycling program for your old felt-tip pens, then why not turn them into something useful yourself? Here are some tips on how to repurpose old felt-tip pens:

1. Turn Old Felt-Tip Pens Into Homemade Watercolours 

The felt-tip pens may be dried out and useless in writing, but you can easily turn them into watercolor paint for a few hours of fun. Use some pliers and pull out the “felt” part of the pen. The more you get out, the more color you will have. 

Place the felt in a cup of water and wait a few minutes until the water is colored. Then dip your paintbrush in the water and create some fun art with your own homemade paint! 

2. Use Disassembled Felt-Tip Pen Parts To Create Something New

If you like DIY, you will enjoy making something new out of old felt-tip pens. Obviously, the size and type of felt-tip pen plays a role in what you can make.Some unique items you can make out of felt-tip pens with a thicker barrel include: 

  • Crochet hook holders 

This is so easy to do and can be so useful for storing your crochet needles! Remove the ink cartridge and felt tip so that the pen’s barrel is empty. Put your crochet hooks inside and replace the cap of the felt-tip pen. You won’t be losing any crochet hooks anytime soon, and you just did something kind for the planet!

  • Garden markers

For all the green thumbs out there – you can use old felt-tip markers as markers in your garden. Place them in the soil in front of the seedlings and write the name of the seedlings on them. This way, your garden will always be organized. 

Tip: Remember to clean the markers and remove any ink or metal parts to prevent contaminating the soil 

  • Toys 

If you have younger kids who enjoy playing with all kinds of toys, you can use old felt-tip pens to make unique toys for them. E.g., you can use the pens as bodies for stick dolls, or if you’re clever enough, you can stick a whole bunch of old felt-tip pens together to build a little playhouse for dolls. 

Another idea if you have a lot of old felt-tip pens and a rope is to make a creative, colorful jump rope using recycled pens! You can also use the barrels of old pens to make candle holders.  


Felt-tip pens do not belong in the bin or landfills anymore. Thanks to companies like TerraCycle, we can now play an active role in solving the plastic waste problem on our planet by recycling all our used felt-tip pens and other writing instruments. With some creativity and DIY skills, we can even recycle and repurpose old felt-tip pens in our own homes! 

These seemingly small changes in how we dispose of everyday items like felt-tip pens make it easy for each of us to make a positive contribution to the environment.  

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