Every year, people across the world go through vast numbers of pens. However, very few consumers are aware of how to properly recycle their writing instruments once they’ve finished using them. For those wondering how they can recycle their old pens, this is what you need to know!
While pens can be recycled, they cannot be placed in a recycling bin. This is because pens aren’t fully recyclable. The inner components of a pen will need to be removed before the plastic casing can be donated. There are many writing instrument recycling programs across the globe.
In this article, we’re going to break down what you need to know about recycling your old pens. We’ll look at how to recycle eleven different types of pens, how to find recycling initiatives, how to reduce the number of pens you use, and even how to reuse them!
How To Recycle 11 Kinds Of Pens
Pens are predominantly made from plastic. Of course, this makes pens ideal for recycling – especially when you consider that America alone discards more than 1.6 billion disposable pens annually. Unfortunately, recycling used pens aren’t as simple as tossing them in the recycling bin.
While plastic pen casings are highly recyclable, the ink cartridges within pens are not. Due to this, the recycling process will vary slightly between different types of pens. This is what you need to know!
#1: Ballpoint Pens
Since the 1950s, BIC alone has sold upwards of 100 billion ballpoint pens. So, you can imagine how many ballpoint pens are truly out there. If these ballpoint pens end up in landfills, they take thousands of years to decompose fully. That’s one of the main reasons recycling pens is so important.
Luckily, recycling ballpoint pens is simple. While the components within your pen typically aren’t recyclable, the plastic casing will be. Ballpoint pens are accepted by all pen recycling initiatives globally – which we’ll look at later in this article.
#2: Calligraphy Pens
If ballpoint pens are one of the most widely used pens, calligraphy pens are probably one of the least widely used – at least in terms of day-to-day writing. Of course, that comes down to the specialized nature of these pens, which leaves people unsure of how to recycle them.
One way to recycle these pens would be to send them to a recycling program like TerraCycle, which accepts various writing instruments. These recycled pens are then turned into everything from trash cans to park benches. The World Environmental Organization also recommends disassembling these pens to reuse them, such as turning them into bird perches.
#3: Correction Pens
Many major pen recycling programs accept correction pens, correction fluid pots, and correction tape. When recycling these pens, you should ensure that there is no correction fluid left within the pen. So, when you’re done making corrections, you can add your empty correction pen, pot, or tape to your pen donation pile!
#4: Erasable Pens
Erasable pens are one of the more obscure pen types on this list. Pilot’s FriXion pen range has become popular in recent years. Largely made using recycled plastic bottles, these erasable pens from Pilot received a stamp of approval from Good Housekeeping.
While the ink cartridges within these pens are not recyclable, the plastic pen casing will be recyclable. Many pen recycling programs will accept this type of pen. However, you’ll need to verify this with the relevant recycling program you decide to use.
#5: Felt Tip Pens
From kids to professional artists, there are many felt tip pens used every year. Luckily, most global pen recycling initiatives will accept used felt tip pens. Once again, this includes the fantastic TerraCycle program.
#6: Fountain Pens
Despite their different nibs, fountain pens and calligraphy pens are highly similar. Fountain pens are also known to last for a long time and are one of the most environmentally conscious pen choices. However, if the time has come to part with your fountain pen, you might be wondering if you can recycle it.
Recycling programs like TerraCycle will gladly accept these pens. Depending on the condition of your pen, you could even consider selling or donating it. However, you might want to try your hand at disassembling your pen and reusing it yourself. We’ll look at how you can do that later in this article!
#7: Gel Pens
Like ballpoint pens, which are also predominantly made from plastic, most pen recycling programs around the world will happily accept gel pens. Once you’re done using your gel pens, you can put them in the recycling pile!
#8: Highlighter Pens
Highlighters are recyclable because their casings are typically made of plastic, which is easily recyclable. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as tossing it into the recycling bin. You’ll need to remove the ink cartridge and rinse the plastic casing. You can then recycle this at your local recycling station or through a program like TerraCycle.
#9: Marker Pens
When it comes down to marker pens, the same procedure for highlighters can be followed. This means removing the ink cartridge before recycling the casing. The casing can be recycled through most pen recycling programs.
#10: Mechanical Pencils
Not quite a pen, not quite a pencil; many people are unsure of how to recycle mechanical pencils. Programs like TerraCycle have stipulated that they do accept mechanical pencils, which can be recycled alongside other used pens.
#11: Rollerball Pens
Rollerball pens share many similarities with ballpoint pens – and can be recycled in the same manner. Most pen recycling programs will accept your used rollerball pens. When recycling this type of pen, you should discard the ink cartridge within the pen beforehand.
Finding Pen Recycling Programs
So far, we’ve looked at the different types of pens and how to recycle them. Of course, many of these pens are accepted by recycling programs across the globe. However, you might be wondering about how to go about finding one of these initiatives when recycling pens!
We also mentioned TerraCycle. When recycling writing instruments, this is a fantastic place to start. On their official website, you’ll be able to find a collection point near you. More than 200 million people have helped TerraCycle recycle – and you could become one of them!
While TerraCycle is mainly based in the United Kingdom, they operate in many countries across the world. In 2020, BIC launched a program in the United States to recycle all types of pens. This recycling program is done through TerraCycle, with BIC acting as the middleman to help get people recycling the ‘write’ way.
Of course, you’ll need to find a drop-off point for BIC’s recycling initiative with TerraCycle. You’ll be glad to know that many businesses have signed up for BIC’s recycling program. Many Staples branches offer pen recycling. Next time you go into a stationery shop, check if they have signed up for any writing instrument recycling programs.
Ultimately, the recycling program you use will depend on where you live. A simple search may help you locate a local recycling initiative that will help you recycle used pens. However, there may be certain requirements you need to adhere to when recycling pens through various organizations.
Part of this is removing non-recyclable ink cartridges, which we discussed earlier. There may also be a minimum number of pens that must be submitted. Organizations like TerraCycle also offer rewards points when more than 15kg is recycled. For this reason, many people choose to collect used pens before recycling them.
Can You Recycle Pencils?
Earlier, we looked at a wide variety of pens and writing instruments that can be recycled. Most of the recycling programs that collect writing instruments even accept mechanical pencils. However, many people have wondered whether pencils can be recycled, too.
Of course, pencils are predominantly made from wood, which is why many people have wondered this. Unfortunately, recycling programs that accept writing instruments will not accept pencils. This is mainly due to the chemical treatments that pencils are put through.
Luckily, given that pencils are continually sharpened, pencil shavings are able to biodegrade at a faster rate. When you consider this aspect, it becomes clear that pencils are a more environmentally conscious writing material to use!
There are even ways for you to incorporate pencil shavings into your gardening. If you’re interested in learning more about this, you can check out the following YouTube video from Garden Tips about using pencil shavings in your garden!
Are Pens Bad For The Environment?
While pens are highly useful, they’re not the most environmentally friendly product. Earlier, we mentioned some staggering statistics about pens, such as the fact that the United States alone disposes of an estimated 1.6 billion pens annually.
While recycling pens is crucial, the limited number of pen recycling programs means that these initiatives cannot keep up with demand. For instance, one artist who was collecting pens for an art installation had to stop donations due to the sheer volume of donations.
Besides recycling used pens, consumers need to consider active ways to reduce the number of pens they use. After all, many of these pens that end up in landfills are disposable plastic pens, like ballpoint pens. Of course, the key to reducing the number of pens you use is using pens that last longer or aren’t disposable.
In terms of pens that will last longer, you should consider pens that can be refilled. Typically, this entails buying replacement ink cartridges for your pen. By switching to refillable pens, you can make one pen last longer. There are many inexpensive pens that can be refilled.
However, another way to reduce the number of pens you buy is to invest in a really good one that isn’t disposable. For instance, there are many inexpensive Parker Pens available to consumers that will write smoothly and last a lifetime. You could even splurge for a Montblanc and really invest in your writing.
Reducing the number of pens that you buy is a great way of reducing your carbon footprint. By sticking to a few good pens, you won’t have to worry about recycling disposable pens so often.
Ways To Reuse Pens Instead Of Recycling
As most people know, there are three R’s when it comes down to waste management: reduce, reuse, recycle. When dealing with any type of waste, it’s important to consider your options when it comes to each of these waste management techniques.
Of course, we looked at how to recycle different types of pens in the first section of this article. We’ve even considered reducing the number of pens we use! Now, it’s time to consider different ways that pens can be reused. One of these ideas might just spark an idea of how you can reuse your used pens!
#1: Donate Used Writing Supplies
When your used pens are still in relatively good condition, you can look for an organization to donate them to. There are many NPO’s that collect writing supplies for schools where they are needed.
#2: Make Pen Drink Stirrers
By removing the inner components of a pen and washing the casing, you can craft nifty drink stirrers. You’ll be able to use them to stir everything from your morning coffee to your evening cocktail. You can rewash your pen stirrers as needed.
#3: Make Pen Garden Markers
Another great idea is to use old pens as garden markers. By doing this, you can remember which plant is which!
#4: Make Christmas Tree Ornaments
Old pens are easy to decorate. Whether you use paint or stickers, you’ll be able to turn used pens into colorful ornaments. You can then hang them on your Christmas tree to add some more color to it. This is a fun way to get creative with old pens!
In this article, we explained how you could recycle 11 different types of pens. However, we also looked at how you can find a pen recycling program near you, how you can reduce the number of pens you use, and even how to reuse pens!