Any household with children will know just how many felt tip pens pass through their doors over the years. And it seems that the vast majority of them will meet a premature end when the smaller members of the family leave the lids off on a regular basis. I know I have tried everything to avoid their early demise, but the sad fact of the matter is, kids get through tons of the things!
That is why it was such a relief to me to find that you can, in fact, recycle them relatively easily thanks to a partnership between BIC and TerraCycle! As a magpie-esque type hoarder I had been collecting my dried up felt tips for years, with no clear idea of what to do with them. Enter stage right, Terracycle – aboard their white charger named BIC!
TerraCycle offers lovely, or rather often pressurised, companies who want to solve their own plastic waste problem the opportunity to set up sponsored recycling schemes. In this case BIC decided to set one up to deal with the issue of waste in essentially the pen sector as far back as 2011 – which puts them way ahead of most companies! They were talking ‘circular economy’ and doing good things before David Attenborough had blown out the candles on his 85th birthday cake.
What Sort of Felt Tip Pens Can I Recycle?
The scheme doesn’t just take BIC products, or indeed felt tip pens. In fact you can recycle pretty much any writing instruments, and even ‘Tippex’ bottles as they were once known! Here is a full list of what you can recycle:
- all writing instruments (except for wooden pencils and chalk)
- any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter or marker
- correction fluid pots and correction tape
- mechanical pencils and eraser pens regardless of their composition
The following are not accepted:
- glue sticks
- cutting objects
Raising Lot of Money for Charity!
Unsurprisingly it is a very popular programme especially as it offers the opportunity for charities to also fundraise through organising a collection. 0.01Euro is donated for every ‘writing instrument’ collected and to date that totals well over 3 million items and a staggering £39 million raised for charity.
There are currently over 500 locations throughout the UK collecting under this programme so not only is this a great way to avoid an enormous amount of plastic going to landfill, it is also funding plenty of charitable organisations as well.
You can find out your nearest collection point via this interactive map.
What Happens to the Felt Tips Pens Once They Are Recycled
The great news is that all of the waste collected is turned into outdoor furniture often used in playgrounds and parks. Through a partnership with French company, Plas Eco, which specializes in the design, manufacture and supply of outdoor furniture, BIC initiated the first range of outdoor furniture made in France from recycled pens. The process goes roughly like this:
- Terracycle collects the pens.
- A recycling company shreds the pens, sorts the plastics and sends them to the manufacturer.
- The manufacturer, Govaplast, who turns them into plastic boards.
- The recycled plastic boards are provided to the designer and manufacturer, Ubicuity, to make into furniture and sell.https://youtu.be/JiKIx3P_ShQ
Terracycle do also run a number of other similar sponsored schemes that operate in the same way, all raising funds for charity, and minimising landfill including Ella’s Kitchen baby food, Acuvue Contact Lenses, Hovis Bread Bags, Nestle Confectionary, Colgate Dental Care Products plus many more. In fact, due to the current pressure to reduce plastic, many companies are signing up to these schemes for the first time than ever before.
Longer term we want to be creating less waste obviously, but in the meantime, this is a great way of dealing with the here and the now!
Please note that the Crayola run a very similar scheme in the US and Canada which often appears in social media feeds. This does only apply to those two territories sadly.
Other Writing Instruments
At the moment, we do not know of any schemes that will recycle either crayons or pencils! Crayons are actually made of paraffin wax which is not biodegradable. It is, therefore, a good idea to try and repurpose them if you can before disposing of them completely. Although some parts of pencils are biodegradable, because they are made of wood, other parts, may not be.