What goes well with a 100% post-consumer recycled notebook? A reusable and biodegradable pen, of course!

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.

Biodegradable Paper Mate pen andmechanical pencil on a recycled ecosystem journal

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.

Biodegradable Paper Mate pen andmechanical pencil on a recycled ecosystem journal

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.

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