Can You Recycle Highlighters? (And Are They Bad For The Environment?)

Reading has always been a gift to humanity. Even though it comes with a lot of discipline, we still do it every day just to get informed and enlightened. But then, the important thing is not more about reading, but about recollecting what you have read, for this is the true test of knowledge. In most cases, many people have adopted different techniques to help them recollect the information they have come across. One of these effective techniques is by highlighting the relevant information they want to take note of.

Over the years this method has proven useful for recollecting information that even when digital books were made, there had to be options for highlighting texts in the digital book. What is used to do this text highlighting is known as highlighters, and they are one the most loved writing and reading items.

But then, there are some underlying considerations we have to give to these highlighters. One of such considerations is whether or not these highlighters would drastically affect the environment.

In this light, we will be considering if the highlighters are recyclable and whether they are bad for the environment. Because you are important to us, we will also be considering if the highlighters you have been using are toxic and if they are safe on your skin. And, lastly, we will explore the different things you can do with your old highlighters.

Even if we don’t say it, it is obvious that this post will be filled with a lot of invaluable and relevant information for you. So, why do you want to handle it with little attention? All we need is few minutes of your time. And we promise to give you the best. So, if you are ready, let’s go.

Are Highlighters Recyclable?

There is nothing as interesting as getting a straight answer to the question you ask. And that’s what we are going to do now. Yes, your highlighters are recyclable. But is this the end? Of course not, you are here for more than a yes or no answer. So, let’s get down to business and explain the reason for the answer.

You can always recycle highlighters whose casing is made of plastics. This is because plastics are one of the favorite recycling materials. However, there are strict rules for recycling your highlighters.

In the subsequent paragraphs, we will attempt an evaluation of these rules.

Exhaust The Ink In Your Highlighters: Before you ever think of recycling your highlighters, ensure you have exhausted the ink that produces the highlighting color. You can’t put a highlighter in the recycling bin when it is still functional. If you don’t have to need your highlighter again, you can gift a friend, but don’t put it in the recycling bin. It doesn’t help to recycle that way.

Remove The Ink Reservoir: Even after you have exhausted the ink, you still cannot put the highlighters in the recycling bin. What you want to recycle is the plastic casing and not the ink reservoir, and this is why you should always remove the ink reservoir from the highlighter. You should also remove the tip for highlighting. All these don’t belong in the recycling bin. If you put them there, they might contaminate other recyclables.

Wash/Rinse Excess Ink: This is one thing you have to do if you want to ensure your highlighters are recycled. The highlighters have in them an ink reservoir and highlighting tip, which would have spread ink to the highlighter casing. Due to this, you can’t put your highlighters in the recycling bin. If you want to, then you must ensure that you rinse or wash the highlighter casing to get rid of the excess ink. This is the only way that you can ensure you get your highlighters recycled.

Check With Your Local Recycling Station: It is important that you check with your local recycling station before you put your highlighters in the recycling bin. The reason is that not all recycling stations accept highlighters for recycling. And, in some cases, the guidelines for accepting them may be different. So, it will be better you confirm from the recycling station before you take any step.

Are Highlighters Bad For The Environment?

The environment is precious to many of us, and that is why we do a lot to try to save it from products or activities that would harm it. With regards to highlighters, we want to see if they are bad for the environment. The answer to this would allow us to make a decision either about eradicating it or reducing its use.

Yes, highlighters can be bad for the environment if not properly managed or disposed of. This seems to be a case of highlighters being good and useful until their disposal is abused.

In this light, highlighters, on their own, do not constitute a nuisance or harm the environment, except we want to consider the energy is required to produce the highlighters plastics and transport them to the store, and their effects on global warming. But aside from this, the rest is with human activities.

Now if you use your highlighters well and dispose of them for recycling as we have pointed out above, there would be no negative effects on the environment. Also, this way, energy is conserved (recycling of plastics requires lesser energy than the manufacturing of plastics).

On the other hand, however, if you displace your highlighters wrongly or you dispose of them in the garbage, they only have one place to end up in the landfill. Here, they can cause harm to the environment.

Plastics are known to take almost eternity before they biodegrade. This means that that plastic highlighter you want to throw in the garbage will still remain in the landfill long after you are gone.

Besides, when the plastic highlighters finally breakdown, they don’t do so without consequences for the soil. Rather than disappear, they break down into microplastics which remain in the soil for other long years where they reduce the soil nutrient and stunt plants’ growth.

Also, while in the landfill, they can be washed into the sea and pollute the waters or harm the aquatic animals. Without a doubt, all these already show that highlighters are bad for the environment if only they are not properly handled.

Are Highlighters Toxic?

The rate at which many things are produced and used is raising some obvious reasons for caution. In almost all circumstances, we are forced to ask whether a particular product is toxic for us. In the same spirit, we are asking if highlighters are toxic for the users. Like always, we have the answers for you. So, let’s go.

Highlighters contain some materials which might be toxic in large quantities, but not in the quantity contained in the highlighters. The inks in most highlighters are made of dyes, alcohol and glycol ether or glycol. Why both dyes and alcohol don’t present reasonable toxicity, glycol, on the other hand, does.

However, before you start fretting, you should know that glycol does not pose harm to you in minute quantities as the ones in your highlighters. So, it is mostly safe for you to use your highlighters. In any case that you swallow or ingest the ink, it can mildly upset your stomach. If, however, there are any abnormal symptoms, you should consider visiting the nearest poison center.

Aside from this, you don’t have anything to fear. Continue to use your highlighters to take note of relevant information in your texts.

Are Highlighters Safe On Skin?

Occasionally, people complain that their skin has come in contact with highlighter inks, and automatically get upset. They often wonder about what would happen to their cherished skin. If you are one of them, and you are also wondering what will happen, then you should pay attention to this segment. Here, we will answer your questions.

Highlighters are safe on your skin. The only thing is that they cause stains on your skin which might not be easily removed. But aside from this, there is no known symptom connected to highlighter pouring or staining your skin.

Nonetheless, if your skin comes in contact with highlighters, you should be careful about what you use to get the stain off. We will advise you not to use the various cleaning agents around. The reason is that it can cause a reaction on your skin and produce symptoms you wouldn’t like. You can use water to try to get it off. If it doesn’t go off immediately, you don’t have to worry. After some days, it will fade away.

If you notice any abnormal symptoms because the highlighter ink-stained your skin, you should not hesitate to contact a physician.

What Can You Do With Old Highlighters?

Since time immemorial, there have always been creative things you can do to old stuff lurking in your home or offices. What it has always required is you knowing what you mean to do and having the time to do it. With regards to old highlighters, there are also different creative things you can do with them. All you need for this is your time, we will handle what you can do and how you can do it in the subsequent paragraphs.

1. Refill Them

Here is one thing many people don’t take note of. Your highlighters, even when they stop writing and you consider them old, are not out of use. You can always refill them and bring them back to life. We know you are already wondering how to get the highlighter ink, but you don’t need this.

In most cases, water would do. You can also mix your water with some vinegar. What you will need is a syringe with needles. You will use the syringe to draw the water and transfer it to the ink reservoir. Be careful of how much water you add. In most cases, you only need a little bit of water.

2. Use Them As Your Secret Store

Yes, you can use your highlighters as a place you keep those things you don’t want people to find out about. What you have to do is remove the cap at the bottom of the highlighter and the ink reservoir in it. You can put your money or letter in it and cover it back. This way, you have made yourself secret storage.

3. Make A Earring Storage

If you have small earrings and you have difficulties keeping them, you can use your old highlighters. The same way you made your secret storage above is the way you will make this. The only difference is what you store in them.

4. Decorate With Them

No doubt, you can decorate with your old highlighters. What you need is a thread to tie the different highlighters. You should paint the highlighters in different colors to make them look more beautiful. You can then suspend the thread with the highlighters dangling over. This would make a beautiful decoration.


There’s no doubt, highlighters help us in many ways. But we can’t close our eyes to the potential harm they will cause to the environment if we don’t dispose of them very well. This is why you must make a promise to save the environment by disposing of your highlighters for recycling.


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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.