What do you do when you’ve finished with a used ink pen – toss it in the trash? Probably, because that’s what we all do. It’s about the only thing you can do with an old pen.
“According to the EPA, Americans throw away 1.6 billion disposable pens every year. Add the rest of the world, multiply by over 50 years of writing with disposable pens, and that’s a lot of metal and plastic waste ending up in landfill! I suspect it’s just the tip of the iceberg, given the piles of disposable pens that many of us haven’t thrown out yet. Not to mention the refillable pens that we never take the trouble to refill. (…)
Fast forward to the age of Bic, and the advent of cheap, disposable pens. New habits were formed, and ballpoint pens (not refills) were soon sold by the pack. Now, everywhere we turn, someone is handing us an inexpensive pen with their company name on it. Many end up in a drawer, pencil cup or purse, never to see the light of day or fulfil their intended function. Others are pitched in the trash when they run dry.” As written by Fredrica Rudell on We Hate to Waste
Complete pens can’t go into normal plastic recycling bins because they contain bits of metal, as well as the remainder of the ink. The barrels themselves are typically “Type 5 recyclable plastic,” according to Pilot, but all metal components and the refills have to be removed before recycling. So, even if you disassembled every pen you use, you would still be left with a pile of clips, plungers, springs, barrel rings, screw-on tips, and refills.
There are a few choices:
- Sign up to a Terracycle group brigade
A company called Terracycle has what it calls Writing Instruments Brigades. The way it works is that groups sign up, collect used pens, pencils, markers, etc. and send them into Terracycle. The company says it can remake them into everything from park benches to trashcans. Each brigade gets points for collecting the used pens, and those points can be redeemed for charitable donations to non-profits and schools.
The World Environmental Organization recommends disassembling pens and using the various parts for, among other things, making bird cage perches, allowing older children to play with them as toys, and turning them into homemade decorations.
- Donate used pens to “Pen Guy“
Who collects used pens that would otherwise be thrown out, but if you have, Ball Point, Dry Erase, Crayola, Felt Tip, Markers, Mechanical Pencils or any other type of pen donate them to him and watch them be transformed into beautiful recycled pen art:
- Reduce your Use
Use some alternatives:
You know that moment when you need to write a quick note and you grab a pen and it’s out of ink? And then so is the next pen? And maybe even the one after that? I’ll tell you what that never happens with. Pencils. Pencils never run out of ink, and you can get lines from soft and smudgy to sharp and clean-edged from each one. Carry a pencil in your pocket, purse, backpack, or briefcase, toss in a tiny metal sharpener, and you’ll be the one people turn to when their pockets’ pens are out of ink.
When you absolutely need to immortalise your words in ink, on your rent check, for instance, a pen is handy and there are some durable options for legal ink signatures – The classic refillable metal pen is still around and with the addition of a converter, you’ll be able to refill your pen with glass-bottled archival-quality ink. A durable metal or biodegradable resin pen is certainly more of an investment than a pack of petroleum plastic pens that cannot be refilled.
- Reuse them