How to Recycle Disposable Pens?

By heather at 11:29 pm on Monday, April 9, 2007

pentel pen

Ok, I officially ‘used up’ my regular old ball disposable point pen. There’s no bringing it back to life, every drop of ink was used up illustrating and writing! So I turned to the source of my Pentel RSVP Black BK90 pens and it didn’t take me long to discover that Pentel offers refils for their disposable pens! So that’s one tiny problem solved. But what about the handful of pens I’ve got sitting here that are dried up that don’t take refills?

“Every year Americans discard 1.6 million pens. Placed end to end, they would stretch 151 miles equivalent to crossing the state of Rhode Island almost 4 times! …Many companies presently carry one to several lines of products which have positive environmental attributes. These attributes include recycled content, refillable options, nontoxic inks and more environmentally responsible packaging.” Green Seal

So how does one recycle old dried up pens? Here are some ideas to reuse and recycle old pens:

Reduce

  • Don’t purchase disposable pens : buy one or two good quality refillable pens (and pencils,) and purchase refils as needed.
  • Buy pens without excessive packaging (or at least packaging that is recyclable and made of recycled materials)

Reuse

  • Purchase refills for your pens & pencils
  • Revive dried up pens by running the tip through a lighter flame, or by adding a drop or two of hot water in the tube.
  • Empty pen casing can be used to safely protect a traditional thermometer; store beads; as a pirch in a bird cage; for marking seedlings in the garden; for stir sticks; as a glue applicator; give those poor quality pens to kids to draw with; get creative!

Recycle

  • At the moment you can’t toss pens in the recycling bin, as they require disassembling and recycling centers don’t have the time to do all that finicky work.

Take Back?

  • I’ve yet to find a company that has a take-back program for their disposable pens. So the best thing I can recommend is : Don’t buy them, don’t take them home from seminars and hotels. Just buy pens that can be refilled and reused. I visited How Do I Recycle This thinking someone there may have found where I can recycle these… and aside from lots of tips on how to revive dried up pens, I couldn’t find my answer!

Office Stationery Take Back Programs
I’m having a hard time finding any take-back programs for stationery such as pens and pencils… help?

I checked out :

Green Seal has written an informative and helpful report on sustainable office stationery in general, including some links to take-back recycling programs.
Pentel USA. : no mention on their website of how to recycle their products. But they do use recycled and recyclable materials for their boxes, cartons and blister cards.

Bic : has a page on Sustainable Developments, but to be honest it was very disappointing. It eloquently skirted around the issues of how much waste their disposable products create, making appearances they are concerned for the environment, while also emphasizing that keeping costs down to make cheap products is their priority over their affect on the environment. They do however encourage you to purchase their more expensive refillable fountain pens. Does Bic recycle? No… apparrantly ‘To be recyclable, products at the end of their life must offer significant potential in both weight and volume…BIC(r) products do not meet these criteria.”

Filed under: green design, business of illustration

34 Comments »

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Comment by Crystal Driedger

April 13, 2007 @ 11:09 am

Wow! I never thought about my poor pens filling up landfills. Thanks for always thinking on the “green” side of things heather :)

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Comment by Rowland Nanna

April 30, 2007 @ 2:19 am

Very helpful! Thanks for compiling these tips and surveying information from other sites. I had just looked at the Bic site and was also disappointed by their attempt to duck the issue.

And speaking of Bic, I threw away about 6 of their disposable pens a while ago, unfortunately. The pens were new but hadn’t been used in over a year and, after multiple failed attempts, seemed hopelessly unusable. But then again, I’m sure they would’ve wanted me to know that there ARE ways to revive the pens - if only they had some sort of highly visible platform from which to share that type of information…

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Comment by Lesia Fontana

October 31, 2007 @ 5:11 pm

Yes, recycling a fountain pen (and any other, in fact, too) is a problem, though with disposals it’s bigger. They are cheap, they last short, and who cares about half a dollar BICs?
I think pens should be collected same way as batteries are.

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Comment by The Pen Guy

January 30, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

May I suggest another way to recycle those old pens? Donated them to me, The Pen Guy and I will glue them on my Mercedes Pens Art Car. After some time when they are totally dead I take them off, autograph them and give them away as souvenirs. See what just happened? they went back to the people and no pen got put in a land fill. I take them all:)

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Comment by little.boxes

April 9, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

Ugh, I’ve been wondering what to do with my pens for the longest time. Until some kind of recyling program’s made by someone or some company, I’ll be sending them to The Pen Guy. Cheers, man!

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Comment by the reverend

April 18, 2008 @ 3:43 am

“Disposable” pens, “Disposabe” razors, and toothbrushes - these are untapped opportunities to recycle. The amount of plastic contained within these products should be reused to re-create similar products. However there could be some problems w/ the blade found within “Disposable” razors…

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Comment by Anony mous

August 13, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

“but why not toss them into the recycling bin and give it a shot, eh? ”
That’s not a good idea.

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Comment by heather

August 13, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

Hey Anonymous, thanks for the comment… you’re right, it’s not a good idea to toss them in the recycling bin, don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that :) Cheers!

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Pingback by Pressure on Manufacturers to make Recycled Personalised Pens « Recycled Promotional Pens

September 2, 2008 @ 8:38 am

[…] What the article neglects to discuss is the extent to which manufacturers of pens are communicating with their customers about how to effectively recycle the products when they reach the end of their useful lifespan.  You might like to read this article about how to recycle pens after use. […]

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Comment by CC

December 3, 2008 @ 7:39 am

Being an environmentalist I have pondered this very question. I really do think that every company should include with their packaging information on how to properly recycle their products. I agree that pressure should be put on these companies to recycle their products.

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Comment by aphraopal

February 7, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

Love this kind of discussion! Never realized there is such a nice place for “pen-lovers” and “environment-lovers” to meet with each other and share solutions together:-)

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Comment by jules

February 12, 2009 @ 10:24 am

Regarding Bic pens and other similarly encased disposables, when I was a kid (and in times since in some McGiveresque type situations), I used to take them apart and re-use the casings as drinking straws…

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Comment by Matt St-Jean

March 11, 2009 @ 9:48 am

I reuse my pens as tunnels (in my ears)

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Comment by NoBod

March 15, 2009 @ 10:32 am

I hae 12 brand new pens never used that will not write, if you heat the tip with a liter it writes for about 10 words then stops.

My problem with this is, I have 5 pens from 15 years ago All these pens are Bic. The old pens you can see through them and see that only an inch or so of ink is left and they all still work. They have not dried up like the new pens do and have.

So i have to think Bic has done this to increase sales. as i still need pens but these new ones don’t last long and if you get them from a store that had them on the shelf for a year before selling them then you are like me getting pens brand new that don’t work.

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Comment by Earthian

March 28, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

I’ll be the first to say I don’t care. I used to care about what environmentalists said. Then they started talking about how every little tiny thing about modern society is killing our fine planet. I love the Earth. I hate it’s followers.

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Comment by Shawna

January 17, 2010 @ 10:44 am

I don’t mind reusing and reducing the pens I have but it’s quite difficult. I have trouble writing with a pen that I dislike, if it’s not the specific pen I like to use, then I cannot write. It sounds picky but true, my handwriting comes out awful on any pens that are not fine point and the specific ones I use.

The problem with that is, is that the pens I do use and write with are not refillable from my knowledge.. I worry about tossing pens in the trash clogging the planet also but since they aren’t recyclable, I have no choice so far :(

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Comment by Shawna

January 17, 2010 @ 10:47 am

“I’ll be the first to say I don’t care.”

That’s because every little thing we do in modern society hurts our planet. If everyone was like you and said “I don’t care” then imagine worse things that could happen in two years, three years, ten years or fifty years. Sorry, but it’s true. People may not care now, they would care when it’s too late.

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Comment by Kirsty

May 21, 2010 @ 12:50 am

Interestingly BiC are aware of these stats and in the UK are running an offer encouraging people to send in their used up BiCs, for which they will receive £10.00!

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Comment by Sammy

May 31, 2010 @ 10:30 am

I can recycle pens, highlighters and markers. I am on face book under Sammy sweeny. Anyone interested can contact me there. If you want to send me your pens, I’ll have them recycled.

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Comment by Sammy

August 1, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

Obviously noone is TOO concerned about throwing pens into landfills. Not one person has contacted me to recycle a pen. Talk is cheap.

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Comment by Tracy

August 9, 2010 @ 2:28 am

There are lots of people on facebook with the same name, so don’t blame people for not contacting you, as it’s not easy to find people on facebook. Obviously people would go ahead and recycle their pens if there was a straightforward way to do so

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Comment by sverde

August 9, 2010 @ 7:23 am

Hey Sammy,

How do i contact you. There are several Sammy Sweeney’s on fb. I’m interested in recycling pens.

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Comment by Catherine Alexandra

October 29, 2010 @ 11:09 am

great post. i have been cleaning out my desks and looking for something to do with most of these pens! also thought you should know that i also found out that paper mate is doing a program for pen recycling/reusing http://www.papermate.com/Pages/default.aspx it doesn’t even cost anything to send in your old pens; the only hitch is that they must be paper mate instruments.

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Comment by Jaya Patel

January 6, 2011 @ 6:03 am

Thanks for the tips, i was googling “how to recycle pens” and ran across this blog. I share your disappointment in knowing there isn’t a easy way to recycle pens.

Also, please consider becoming a fan of
www.facebook.com/earthinspire. I just created this page and my intention is to create the largest eco-friendly, non-toxic, health based community in facebook. i would like you to be a part of it and contribute your opinions.

thanks so much.

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Comment by mari

July 9, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

I looked at Staples online for Pentel RSVP fine point black refills. $1.99 for two. So if you order ten, that’s $20 not counting taxes and shipping. I can go to my favorite store and buy a twelve-pack of these pens for $9.27. Unfortunately, I have to go for the affordable option - which is to chuck the used pens and buy new ones.

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Pingback by Recycle Your Pens = Clear Your Conscience « L.A. Green Bean

September 29, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

[…] It is no surprise then that most pens arenot recyclable. I cannot tell you how many people I have run into, especially in universities (hello LMU!) that are not aware that throwing pens in the recycle bin does no good. […]

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Comment by CUL

October 28, 2011 @ 7:27 am

Read an article today here in China on China Daily on a student, who decided to quitt studies and instead collect pall pens to ensure, they are not thrown away as waste, and do not harm mother earth. As of today, he could not find any company in China who would be willing to recycle pens and refills. The annual consumption of pens and ink refills here are in the billion’s each year. Any one has a solution, idea for this situation…really like to reach out to this courageous studen, who’s monthly income is less than 100 UDS / month and let him know that our there in the western and developed world, there is a solution…and we can help him.

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Comment by CUL

October 28, 2011 @ 7:35 am

Here is the link to the arctilce http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-10/27/content_13984723.htm
thanks for your green support…we are reaching 7 bill people this month, and not sure if our children will be able to have sufficient resources to keep surviving, before the end of this century, if we continue exploiting our planet in the speed we do presently.

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Comment by The Pen Guy

November 27, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

I don’t recycle but I do reuse those old empty pens and glue them on my Mercedes Pens Art Car. You can always send them my way:The Pen Guy - P.O.Box 994 - Forestville, CA 95436

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Comment by MicFields

January 30, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

I looked for Sammy Sweeny-did not find her.
As much as I like the penguy taking the pens off my hands (no-offense) - it still does not solve the problem at hand. I’ll keep looking.

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Comment by KHandfield

April 1, 2012 @ 8:40 am

Thank you for posting all of this great information! I have so many dead pens and I felt terrible about just throwing them away. At least I know that there are people who are thinking the same thing!

I have found a few glass blowers who make beautiful glass pens that you can fit in pen refills. They are very sturdy (I know as I have dropped my many many times and it is still in one piece!). I thought that this might interest people, as it gives you a beautiful handcrafted pen, there is no packaging and the only part that needs to be recycled or disposed off is the refill.

32
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Comment by Mary

May 3, 2012 @ 6:47 am

Sammy how does anyone contact you?

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Comment by Abha

July 10, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

Very interesting thoughts and suggestions. i do have a question about sketch pens. I have 3 girls and though i try to see that they use crayons and pencil colors they do use sketch pens and they get used very fast. So how do i dispose them? any ideas? And totally agree that manufacturing companies should give instructions on proper disposal

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Comment by Abha

July 10, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

‘Sketch pens’ I mean ‘Markers

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