Are Pens Recyclable? (And Are They Biodegradable?)

No doubt, one of the best ways of communicating is through writing. But as much as we appreciate writing as an effective means of communicating, we cannot ignore the instrument used to bring the writing into a reality.

For years, pens have had a critical role to play in our mode of communication. And due to their long-lasting ability and durability, they are preferred by many people. However, this preference may also be a trigger of a bigger problem for the environment.

To avoid this, we need to consider whether these pens have any effect on the environment, and what probably might be the solution. This is what this post considers in detail. So, you don’t want to miss any details of the information here. Kindly sit back and enjoy the details!

Can You Recycle Pens?

One thing about pens that’s a bit off the mark for people is that you have to discard them after their ink gets exhausted. Though there are refillable pens, if you do the math on how much writing is done, you will see that we often end up with many pens for recycling. But then, can you recycle these pens?

Yes, pens are recyclable. But this is only possible to the extent that their casings are made with plastic materials that are considered recyclable. If the plastic materials are not recyclable, then there is no way they would be recycled.

Also, though pens are recyclable, this does not apply to all the pen parts. For instance, the lid containing the ink is most often not recycled. This is because of the ink they contain, which is considered contaminants of other recyclable materials. Also, the tip of the lid used for writing may not be subjected to recycling due to their size and the fact that they also contain inks considered toxic or contaminants.

In all, pens are recyclable, but their recycling is not total, as other parts may not be recycled.

Are Pens Biodegradable?

Considering the material nature of many pens being used today, it will be impossible to claim that pens are biodegradable. Many pens are made with plastic or metal materials, which are known to take hundreds of years before they break down.

However, considering some recent advancements in the pen production industry, we believe that pens that are not biodegradable may no longer be valid. This is because some pens are being made from biodegradable materials like FSC-certified woods, biodegradable cornstarch, and recycled papers. To make the use of these pens more sustainable for the earth, their ink, too, has been made with eco-friendly materials.

Are Pens Bad For The Environment?

If we consider the materials pens are made of, we will most likely arrive at an answer that says that pens are bad for the environment. Why is this so? Come see for yourself.

The casings of pens are often made with plastic materials, which are, at best, difficult to recycle, and at worst, not recyclable at all. The implication of this is that the casings end up in the landfills, where they can take up to a thousand years before they can biodegrade. Even where they biodegrade, they don’t disappear completely from the soil.

Rather, they breakdown into microplastics which remain in the soil and consequently reduce the soil’s nutrients and stunt plants’ growth. The same thing happens to pens whose casings are made of metal materials.

Also, the ink of a pen is often made up of some chemicals which are toxic to the environment. Most times, when we think that we have exhausted the ink, there are still traces here and there, which, when disposed of to the landfills, can leach to the soil or even the groundwater and pollute it.

Aside from this, due to the traces of toxic chemicals in these inks, they can also reduce the nutrient of the soil and stunt the plant’s growth when they leach to the ground.

Lastly, the sizes of these pens are rather minimal. This means that they can be easily tossed away by heavy wind or flood to undesired places. These can end up in the sea, where they contaminate the water and pose risks to the aquatic animals in the sea.

With all the above, it is clear that pens are bad for the environment if not properly taken care of and discarded.

Can You Put Pens In A Recycling Bin?

Though pens are recyclable, it is often advised that you should not throw your pens in the recycling bin. This is because the inks contained in these pens can leach out and contaminate some of the other recyclable materials, which would render them useless.

The best thing to do is to get a plastic bag and put the old pens inside. After this is done, you should securely tie or tape the plastic bag’s opening so that the pens do not fall off. then, you can place the plastic bag beside your recycling bin. You can also label it for easy identification.

Which Is More Eco-Friendly: Pens Or Pencils?

Trying to find out which one is more eco-friendly between a pencil and a pen is a debate many people try to run away from. However, there is an extent to which we can all run away from this debate, especially given the new consciousness in the environment. This is why we have decided to settle the long-time debate today. Below, we will tell you which is more eco-friendly between pens and pencils.

To arrive at a conclusive answer, we will consider the materials pens and pencils are made of and what happens to them after their use.

Materials Used To Make Pens

Undoubtedly, many of the people reading this have had to deal with a pen at one point in time, so it is not a new thing that pens are often made with plastic materials. There are also some which are made of metal materials.

Now, if you trace where these materials are coming from, you will most likely be concerned for the environment. For instance, the plastics used for pens stem majorly from petroleum products, which are difficult to recycle and don’t biodegrade on time. When they do biodegrade, they end up polluting the environment.

If you consider the fact that these pens also have metal materials that are not eco-friendly, you would understand better. Besides, the ink too is often filled with chemicals that will pollute the earth and decrease the nutrients of the soil.

So, as you can see, pens are good to write with, but the materials they are made of are not environmentally sustainable.

Materials Used To Make Pencils

If you have held or written with a pencil before, you should not have difficulties knowing that they are made with wood materials. Many of the pencils in use today come from China, where local basswood is used to make them. Sometimes, Juniper or incense-cedar are also used in the production of pencils.

Unlike pens, pencils use leads to make marks on surfaces. In China, where most of these pencils are produced, the leads are often a graphite product. This graphite is a type of carbon that is fired alongside clay inside a kiln. Where this is done, the outcome is always the lead used for the pencils. This method and the materials used are very sustainable and environmentally friendly.

So, as you can see, pencils may not last as long as pens, but they are more environmentally sustainable than pens.

End of Pens And Pencils

Looking at the end of pens and pencils is also a valid way to choose which is more environmentally friendly. Though each might have performed well during their use, if they are damaging to the environment after their use, they are not environmentally friendly.


Like we pointed out above, pens are not environmentally friendly. Even after their use, they can constitute problems to the environment judging by their difficulties to get biodegradable. The inks contain traces of some toxic chemicals that are dangerous to the environment. With this, we can’t decide that pens are eco-friendly.

However, this does not apply to all pens. As we explained above, there are now biodegradable pens that have been made with environmentally sustainable materials.


Unlike pens, the end of pencils is more sustainable. If you consider that pencils are made out of wood materials that are a natural source, you will understand it better. Woods used to make pencils that would biodegrade in no time.

Also, because you sharpen the pencils for each use, the sharpened bits would biodegrade faster. Also, you may make compost out of your pencils after you have removed the lead in them.


From the above, you should be able to say what the verdict would be. Yes, pencils are more eco-friendly than pens. This is because of the materials they are made of and their effects on the environment after they have been used and discarded.

Though it may not be possible to completely do away with pens, we would advise that where you cannot write with pencils, you can buy the eco-friendly pens we talked about above. This way, you are contributing your part to the sustainability of the environment.

What Can You Do With Old Pens?

Who says you have to throw away your used pens? Don’t listen. There are many ways you can still put them to use. Some of the things you can do with pens have been explained below.

1. Donate Them

Yes, you can always donate your old pens if they are still in good condition and the ink has not been exhausted. There are many charity homes and schools that would be happy to take possession of your pens.

2. Gift Them Out

You can also gift out your pens to colleagues, neighbors, and friends. If you have nieces, nephews, and cousins who are still in high school, you can gift the pens to them. The rule that applies here is the same as when you want to donate your pens- ensure that they are still in good writing conditions.

3. Make Creative Things

There is always no limit to creativity. With your old pens, you can make creative things that would be useful for other purposes. Some of the creative things you can make are;

  • Garden Marker: You can use your old pens to mark the location of plants in your garden. What you have to do is poke the pens near the plants for easy identification. You can also use them as plant starters.
  • Coffee Stirrers: With a neatly cleaned pen, you can stir your coffee each time there is no spoon or other coffee stirrers nearby.
  • Ornaments for Christmas Trees: You can use your old pens to decorate your Christmas trees. This will save you some money.


Pens have helped us in many ways; this is why they are preferred by many. But we must also be careful so that they don’t end up constituting problems to our environment. This is why we must be responsible for their proper disposal, and where possible, go for the environmentally sustainable ones. This way, you are contributing positively to the good of the environment.


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.