This week’s topic is one that has been bothering me pretty much since I started writing this blog. Can you recycle a pen? Can you buy eco-friendly pens? Should you even stop using pens altogether?

Pens are made of a lot of different components, including plastic, metal and ink. Because there as so many different bits, it’s currently very difficult to recycle them. You could take them all apart and try to recycle all the bits separately, but I’m not sure how many of the pieces would actually be able to make it through the recycling process. With this, I think that the best way to go is to contact your local recycling facility. If you can find out the type of plastic the main part of your pen is then you might be able to recycle that too.

But there aren’t any nationwide programmes to recycle pens. Unless you’re willing to use the components to make other things, or to create pen artwork (it’s true, some people do it!), then I feel a little stumped. Pens are everywhere…school, work, you get given them free wherever you go, and they seem to breed at home. Plus I used to love buying new stationary so I bought a lot for myself too, which are now lying around, half-used.

I think for this topic my main pointers are:

  • Try not to pick up new pens, whether they’re freebies, handed to you at work or staring temptingly at you from a shop shelf.
  • Use the pens you already have. I think that if you’ve already got something, it’s even more of a waste to throw it away without using it. So stick to using the pens you have at home – this could save you money too! I took a pen I got in a Christmas cracker to work the other day, instead of getting a new one from the stationary cupboard.
  • Use pens that allow you to replace the ink component or ink cartridge (such as a fountain pen). Although this is still generating waste, I think that this is less than it would be if you bought a whole new pen.
  • If you do need to buy a new one, find one made from recycled materials. Although it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a pen made from recycled pens, this option is better than buying one made from brand new materials. A lot of websites sell pens made from recycled materials (such as Nigel’s Eco Store and Eco-Gifts, to arbitrarily name a couple). The charity WWF also sells pens and pencils made from recycled materials.

What do you think? Do you do a lot of writing by hand? Or maybe you’ve gone completely digital and have no use for pens any more? I’ve love to hear if you’ve thought of any solutions!


14 thoughts on “Pens

  1. I have rounded up a bunch of excess pens and included them in a donation to Goodwill, with hopes that someone might find them useful. Even better would be your suggestion not to accumulate them in the first place.

  2. I have pens I found and many get passed on when someone else needs one. I have questioned how to eliminate disposable pens from my home, at least once these are gone, and have only come up with two solutions. The first I am already doing and that is to use a pencil when possible instead of a pen. The other I am considering is to find a fountain pen and purchase ink in glass jars. It might make writing more fun or could be a huge pain.

    • I tried to go back to a fountain pen but couldn’t quite get into it. I suppose it depends how much writing you do. Using a pencil instead of a pen is a good idea, I might have to try that! πŸ™‚

  3. I know how you feel, it’s a difficult one. I decided I wouldn’t buy any more pens, and just use pencils instead. But that doesn’t work if you need write an address on an envelope that’s going through the mail, or even writing things in a notebook that you don’t want to fade to unreadable paleness. The best thing I found recently was pens made of bamboo, but of course the inside is still disposable plastic and, would you believe it – they came in thick plastic packaging!!! 😦

    • Yes, I’ve found that when writing recipes into a recipe notebook…I’d like to use fountain pen for them but they might just get splashed and washed away. At least you’re reducing pen use most of the time though! Aw that’s a shame! 😦 I bought some recycled card the other day and that same in plastic packaging too!

  4. I have been wondering the same thing! I just went through my trash collection for the year and had several pens. If you find a good fountain pen, please share.

    • I’ve been given a couple so I might try using one of those and see how it goes…the one I’ve got still uses plastic ink cartridges though 😦

  5. I have my fair share of pens in the house as well πŸ˜‰ What I’m doing is trying to use them up (like with everything else in the house). I can’t actually remember last time I bought a pen as they seem to migrate from work to house through my work purse.. When I clean up next time, I’ll bring them back to work, for me and other people to use up…

    • Yes, I feel like I’ve been using up pens forever too. I do write a lot of notes at work and lists on scrap paper at home though so at least they’re getting used. Hope your colleagues like the idea πŸ™‚

  6. My collection of pens and pencils is huge… They seem to breed in the drawers or something. I am trying to make a point of not acquiring any new pens, and using up the ones that I already have, but it would be great if we could recycle the pens once they are done…

  7. When I was younger, so much younger than today (hey, that would make a good song lyric), I used old pens as logic probes – these were things you prodded onto electronics to see the voltage levels – you could remove the bit with the ink (empty of course) and solder a wire to the nib, running the cable through the body and off to your logic level meter (or whatever). These days the nibs are way too big because all the electronic components are tiny!
    These days, I use the pen until there is no more ink – I try to use the simplest ones with no fancy springs or anything – then separate the plastic body for recycling. Ones made of recycled materials are a good way to go, at least that keeps stuff out of landfill a bit longer!

    • I’ve never even heard of a logic probe (and am not sure what I would be doing with voltage levels!! :P) but that sounds like a good use. Yes, I use them up but I’m never sure if the individual parts are recyclable? We have so many pens at home that I haven’t bought a new one for a while but recycled ones are the best way to go πŸ™‚

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