To the Point: Pens and Pencils Offer Eco-friendlier Features

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If you’re a shopper who evaluates environmental facets of products you purchase, please direct your attention to pens and pencils.

Manufacturers are promoting variety of styles that offer eco-friendly features. Some use recycled resources. Others incorporate sustainable alternatives that reduce or eliminate plastic.

To folks who are picky-for-the-planet about pens and pencils, we declare, “Write on!”

Editor’s note: Earth911 teams up with affiliate marketing partners to help fund our Recycling Directory. If you purchase an item through one of the affiliate links in this post, we will receive a small commission.

Reducing Plastic

Recycled cork barrel pen

Promotional pens with cork barrels. Photo: Eco-Pens.com

As demand for more sustainable products widens, so does variety, style, and quality of eco-friendly pens, according to Paul and Julie Painting. They own Eco-Pens.com, which sells promotional pens printed with names and logos.

Quality is important, Paul Painting says, so their pens are functional, rather than non-valued items easily tossed in the trash.

With minimum-required orders, prices of Eco-Pens’ printed pens range from about 60 cents to $3 each, depending on quantity, style selected, and other factors, Paul Painting says.

From Eco-Pens.com and other suppliers, intriguing materials used for pen bodies include:

  • Wheat straw and wheat husk, such as styles showcased on Eco Promotional Products Inc. The Wheat Straw ballpoint pen’s barrel is made with 45 percent wheat straw, which is leftover material after wheat grains are harvested. “The wheat straw in this pen reduces the amount of plastic used,” explains the website.
  • Recycled cardboard, such as Eco-Pen Recycled Cardboard Fineliner Gel Pens on Amazon. “All Eco-Pens are made from 100% recycled plastic and cardboard,” the webpage says.
  • Bamboo, such as the Panda Bamboo pen on Eco-Pens.com. The pen has a “bamboo wood barrel and cornstarch clip and tip made with 60% biodegradable materials.”
  • Cork, such as the Recycled Cork Barrel Pen sold on Eco-Pens.com.

Recycled Plastic, Paper, & Other Materials

TreeSmart newspaper pencils

Recycled newspaper pencils Photo: TreeSmart

Some writing implements are designed with recycled plastics and other recycled materials.

Recycled newspaper is employed for TreeSmart pencils, available on Amazon.

A traditional Sunday newspaper produces about 200 TreeSmart pencils, says Steve Mawdsley of TreeSmart Industries. He explains that TreeSmart tightly rolls newspaper around pencil lead and adheres it with non-toxic glue. “The newspapers dry as hard as cedarwood, so sharpening is easy,” he says. “Since the newspaper is tightly wrapped around the lead, it’s supported much better, resulting in less lead breaking.”

Tetra pen is made from recycled plastic

Recycled Tetra pen. Photo: Eco-Pens.com

Other pens and pencils featuring recycled materials include:

  • Pilot B2P refillable gel ink and ballpoint pens are “made from 89% and 83% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.”
  • Recycled Tetra Pens, sold on Eco-Pens.com, contain recycled Tetra Pak “and similar food and beverage container materials.”
  • Ticonderoga Renew pencils contain recycled wood scraps. “Less wood is used and less waste is created. Pencils are made with 53% pre-consumer recycled wood.”
  • Recycled Denim Hex Pencils, available from The Pencil Superstore website, are “100% recycled denim blue jean pencils.”
  • Greenciles pencils are made of recycled paper, including newsprint, printer paper, and stationery. “The paper is cleaned, reused, and wrapped around a safe graphite writing core,” says their website.
  • Onyx and Green mechanical pencils, available on Amazon. The body of these pencils is made with recycled PET plastic. They ship “packaged in a recycled material package with soy based ink.”

Refillable Whiteboard Markers & Highlighters

Zebra Optex Refillable Highlighter

Zebra Optex Refillable Highlighter. Photo courtesy of JetPens online store

Often, highlighters and whiteboard markers are single-use disposable items. Refillable versions from different brands are available, potentially reducing waste.

Examples include:

Responsible Purchasing, Packaging, & Discarding

In addition to evaluating what pens and pencils are made with, savvy shoppers also think about such facets as quantity, durability, packaging, and disposal.

Purchase only what you need. “Do you really need the 10-pack of pens or will one or two pens be enough?,” queries Alex Payne publicist for TerraCycle, which recycles items not usually accepted in household recycling.

When you’re done with them, don’t drop pens and pencils into recycling bins, unless you’re sure your recycling service accepts these items. Most facilities can’t process them, even if they’re made with recycled water bottles or newspapers. Due to mixed materials and other factors, pens and pencils are widely regarded as contaminants that interfere with efficient recycling, explained Robert Pickens, a member of Oklahoma Recycling Association.

Other tips:

  • If possible, request or seek out items with little or no plastic packaging.
  • Think about refillable pens, rather than single-use disposable styles.
  • Look for manufacturers that offer recycling or take-back programs, Payne recommends.
  • Discard pens responsibly so they don’t wind up as litter or ocean pollution.
  • TerraCycle offers recycling opportunities for pens. One option is the BIC Stationery Recycling Program, which accepts pens, markers, mechanical pencils, and other eligible items for free.

Feature image by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

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