Paper Mate’s come out with biodegradable pens and mechanical pencils
, just in time for Earth Day. The implements work just like regular pens and pencils — since really, the inner workings of these are exactly the same as the less green Paper Mate products. But the pens and pencils’ beige-and-green exteriors are mostly made with a corn-based bioplastic using Mirel
’s technology — which means the bulk of these writing implements will compost if buried in a backyard post use!
Yes, they will take a full year to biodegrade — which means that these pens and pencils do still carry the many eco-caveats that most bioplastics do. Many people, including myself, don’t have backyards to bury thing in, let alone patience to wait for a year! That said, the pen remnants are small enough that guerrilla composting — say, by digging into a traffic island — is perfectly possible.
Bioplastics are nothing new, but a few things really impressed me about these greener Paper Mate products. For one, they come in all-paper packaging (above)! No unnecessary plastic “windows,” ties, or tough-to-open casings separate the eco-consumer from these writing utensils.
Second, an illustrated diagram on the back of the packaging (below) explains exactly what’s compostable and what’s not — which provides an honest clarity and transparency to the would-be eco-consumer. While the bulk of these implements are biodegradable, some of the materials — like the spring in the pen or the nib in the mechanical pencil — are still made of non-biodegradable plastic and have to be landfilled. The diagram lets the anal recycler know what to put where — and clearly shows that even greener products do indeed produce waste.
This is why I wish Paper Mate emphasized the reusability of its products more. Certainly, the biodegradable mechanical pencil — which comes with lead and eraser refills — embodies reusability. But the biodegradable pens too can be reused for a long long time, so long as the writers realize that they can simply buy pen refills instead of whole new pens. Unfortunately, this refill-reuse aspect isn’t even mentioned on the pen or its packaging.
After all, reuse is much much better than recycling — or even composting for that matter, especially when we’re talking about materials that take a full year to break down. I encourage all writers to focus more on how long they can use these comfy-to-hold, pretty-to-look-at pens, versus how long they’ll take to compost once you’re done using them.
The Paper Mate Biodegradable pens — available in black, blue, red or purple ink — cost about $1.70, while the mechanical pencil — available in 0.5mm or 0.7mm lead sizes — retails for about $2.70. Find them in stores nationwide. Paper Mate also offers a FlexGrip Ultra Recycled Ball Point Pen made from 70% recycled materials — which is also refillable. Other greenish Paper Mate products include a Write Bros. Recycled Ball Point Pen made from 80% recycled materials and an Earth Write Recycled Pencil made from 100% recycled cedar wood, but neither of those allow for reuse.