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Writing Instruments And Single-Use Plastics


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55 replies to this topic

#1 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 03:15

Our planet is awash in discarded plastics with items that are used once and discarded being a major source. If we, as individuals interested in writing instruments, want to minimize our personal one-time uses of plastics what type of writing instrument produces the least? Fountain pens filled from bottled ink and mechanical pencils are obvious winners but what about other instruments, particularly types of pens?

 

I've thought about the subject a lot, have only partial answers and would like to know other people's thoughts. Even though we discard larger plastic items I would like to limit the discussion to writing instruments. Can we start a conversation about this topic?



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#2 sciumbasci

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 09:51

Ebonite seems like a renewable source to me

#3 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 14:21

Thanks sciumbasci. I'm ready to give fountain pens a "pass" as, with the exception of the non-refillable "disposable"(!) ones  and disposable cartridges that are not refilled by syringe, they are objects intended to be used many times, 

 

Now, the use of cartridges that are not going to be refilled by syringe and the inexpensive disposable fountain pens-they are another story altogether and can be lumped in with the offending ball and fiber tip instruments that use disposable refills or are entirely disposable.



#4 Studio97

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 15:59

I have a massive number of rb, bp and gel plastic refillable pens. All bought on deals. I empty one and toss it even though it doesnt seem right. It wouldnt make any sense to spend more and buy a refill at regular price. I wonder if i could put them in with recycled bottles.

Otherwise i like Fps because i can refill from a bottle. I dont think about the small FP catridges i have tossed. Compared to the larger plastic products we toss which are not easily recycled, the cartridges seem very miniscule in the scope of it all.

Edited by Studio97, 18 February 2018 - 16:05.


#5 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 22:35

 "I empty one and toss it even though it doesnt seem right. It wouldnt make any sense to spend more and buy a refill at regular price."

Thanks for joining in Studio97. May I suggest in the gentlest possible way that we might consider what "makes any sense" in environmental rather than financial terms? I agree that pens seem small when compared with, for instance, plastic lawn furniture that has broken prematurely, but apparently there are so many pens that, like plastic straws, they add up to a big problem.

 

Here's a website I chose almost at random that illustrates the magnitude of the problem. (I have no affiliation with this organization). <http://www.abc.net.a...plained/8301316> I try to reduce personal use of plastics but  guess I focus especially on pens because they are the basis of our hobby. I hope I'm not sounding "preachy". That is not my intention.



#6 TSherbs

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 00:25

I am not sure that there is a way to make a quality fountain pen with no plastics at all in it. A wooden pen would have less plastic, for sure. 

 

The best route is to buy as little as possible and use each piece as long as possible.

 

This is not a principle much followed by members here at FPN.  :mellow:

 

I wrote Goulet pens and asked them to use sustainable materials (and less plastic) in their packing. I was told that it was not cost-effective.  :huh:



#7 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 02:26

Glad to see people are interested. Perhaps I can refine my question: We seem to agree that fountain pens produce the least single-use plastic-if any. If we focus on ball tip (ball points, roller balls) and inks, (ball point, roller ball, gel)  assume the body of the pen is well made and will survive at least several years of use, what types of ink, line widths and types and sizes of refills will yield the least single-use plastic?

 

Some considerations: 1. what types of refills will provide the maximum linear feet of line, 2. what type and brand of refills provides the most line length vs. the amount of material to be discarded when the refill is empty etc. And what about the Parker-type refills that seem to be made primarily of metal?

 

I'm seeking general answers, not anticipating that there are much precise quantitative data available. I realize this may seem trivial but please continue humor me as I ask these questions. Thanks.



#8 TSherbs

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 03:16

gel refills deplete most quickly

 

by brand, I wouldn't know



#9 Inkling13

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 05:02

Plastics avoid much of the environmental strain placed on natural resources say wood, especially exotic hardwoods. However, most plastics hang around forever, and are produced with all sorts of plasticizers and other additives that we are just finding out thei impact on everything. Two options i do see are either FPs made with near 100% post consumer plastic, or a bio-plastic that can truly degrade in under a lifetime. Nothing yet has reached these, but seeing that Fps are nearly immortal with care, You do get pretty close to reducing your waste stream to a minimum. However we are still guilty of chewing up resources by the sheer number of pens, inks and other accoutrements. So are we really generating less plastics in the long run? We may not throw it out, but its still produced.

#10 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 15:49

Inkling13: Thanks for your thoughtful and, in my opinion, valid observation. I would like to shift the conversation away from fountain pens that we seem to agree are a good choice for environmental considerations to the pens that use ball tips. Does anyone have comments on those?

 

As someone has said, the best solution is to purchase the smallest quantity of pens no matter what type, but all types have to be refilled eventually. And for many of us pens are partly a hobby and our consumerist mindset has us wanting more. For the moment, let's indulge ourselves by continuing this conversation. I'm gratified that there seems to be  significant interest.



#11 bluebellrose

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 01:27

I am not sure that there is a way to make a quality fountain pen with no plastics at all in it. A wooden pen would have less plastic, for sure. 

 

The best route is to buy as little as possible and use each piece as long as possible.

 

This is not a principle much followed by members here at FPN.  :mellow:

 

I wrote Goulet pens and asked them to use sustainable materials (and less plastic) in their packing. I was told that it was not cost-effective.  :huh:

I prefer if they used paper or sugarcane paper for their packaging. I can recycle those but I can't recycle bubble wrap. The local recycler doesn't take it. There are fps out there that are made of bamboo.



#12 Corona688

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 02:13

As writing instruments go, ballpoints are the biggest offenders by far. We get given far more pens than we'll ever be able to use. It's not even a question of supply and demand any more, just advertising. Since they're rarely bought, they're rarely of quality worth refilling, if refills are available at all.

For an extremely minimal option, there is the "stainless steel pencil", which is just a chunk of special alloy in a pencil shape. It leaves a grey line when you write on the page. It can probably last centuries.

#13 MYU

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 06:08

There are still plenty of disposable pens being made, in both ballpoint and rollerball / gel formats.

 

I think they should use a biodegradable plastic for those types of writing instruments.  Flashy and florescent looking plastics are visually tempting, but terrible for the environment.  I have seen some disposable pens coated in a plastic for coloration.  They should take that opportunity to make the core part of the pen biodegradable.

 

I think it would also be a good idea to have pen recycling bins at places like large chain stores that sell stationery.  They usually have bins for cellphones and plastic bottles.  Why not pens?

 

But in the grand scheme of things, there's far more plastic waste from bottling, bags, and cosmetic products.  Ever heard of microbeads?  Plastic Microbeads -- Ban the Bead.  It's an insidious problem, because they're microscopic.  They're in many personal care products such as anti-age lotions, soaps, creams, body washes, and toothpastes,   You don't even realize the stuff is going down the drain and into the refuse line that eventually leads to the ocean.  Sea life is ingesting these microbeads... and it's wreaking havoc on the health of sea life.


Edited by MYU, 20 February 2018 - 06:23.

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#14 JakobS

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 15:11

One of the best ways to reduce the creation of new plastic for fountain pens is to use vintage pens, not only are you reducing the amount of new plastic needed for your writing instrument, but also the potential for these "old pens" of being thrown into the waste stream. Rubber sacs, pistons, and seals are common for repairs, but are generally far less impactful than a whole pen, and generally will last for a number of years.

 

Glass ink bottles are able to be recycled perpetually, and would be best choice in that regards. They are heavier, so may use more resources to travel to you based on weight, but depending on on recycled content, and the manufacturing process may still produce less emissions, and use less energy and resources than raw plastic production. Buying ink as close to you as possible, or directly from the supplier can reduce the amount of resources used to get it to you. If you really like a certain ink, buying it in the largest bottle possible is best. Samples help reduce collecting bottles of unused inks, and the potential of people dumping these inks down the sink, or tossing them into the waste stream. 

 

Pens with large ink capacities, and fine to extra fine nibs with restrained flows (no firehouse extra fines, if there are any!) will take the longest to empty, and get the most writing per fill. A very dry medium nibbed pen may have a chance as well, but probably not as great as a finer tipped pen. 

 

Whenever there is a question about ballpoint pens on FPN, I am never able to answer as I have not used one since 2007 for much more than a quick signature at a restaurant or store, and generally don't pay attention to what pen is provided. I agree that office supply stores should have pen recycling programs, but many of them appear to be struggling to stay afloat, so probably are distracted a little in that regard!  It would be nice if manufacturers used recyclable components throughout, but all plastic barrels and caps should be able to be recycled, its when metal parts get thrown into the mix that complicates things a little. 


Edited by JakobS, 20 February 2018 - 15:11.

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#15 EBUCKTHORN

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 15:49

Thanks for keeping this going. I agree that pens are a small (but I'd bet surprisingly larger than we'd guess) component of the waste stream. I'm also aware of micro-beads and thanks for directing attention to that matter. Even if pens are a small part of the overall problem I persist here, probably because I would like my hobby to be relatively benign.

 

On the other hand if one were to point out that I have many more pens than I'll ever need I'd plead, "Guilty as Charged." I am trying to  get myself to say, "You [I] have many more pens than needed and even a new attractive model appears I don't need it!" (And what does that imply for our favorite suppliers of pens?)

 

We seem to agree that fountain pens are the winners here but as much as I like them, I find that they don't fill all my needs. This gets me back into the world of ball points, gel pens and roller balls where the matter of single-use plastics is hard to avoid.



#16 Corona688

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 20:34

It's also a problem that "recycled" frequently isn't reduced back to a pristine industrial material. You can strip the paint off an aluminum can, but can't do much about red colorant inside polyethylene. Sometimes the best they can do is cast ugly outdoor furniture from the resulting brown slurry.

Genuinely biodegradable plastics like PLA may be part of the answer. In the long run they'll return to the ecosystem from whence they came. Sometimes this happens sooner than they intend. They tried to make underground cables from PLA, but rodents noticed they were edible!

They're still working on higher-tech ways to strip plastics down to primordial molecules and build them back up. Supposedly ultra-high-temperature steam is the beginning of that. Once that gets really rolling, they may reap a fortune in garbage... and possess the ultimate way to dispose of a corpse.
 

We seem to agree that fountain pens are the winners here but as much as I like them, I find that they don't fill all my needs. This gets me back into the world of ball points, gel pens and roller balls where the matter of single-use plastics is hard to avoid.

Gels are as inevitably wasteful as ballpoints, but true rollerballs use liquid ink. Some take cartridges which you can refill by hand if determined, and disposable ones can be cranked open with a little work. The far ends pop off of uni-ball micros, and the entire nib/feed of a hi-tecpoint pulls forward.

Edited by Corona688, 20 February 2018 - 20:35.


#17 bluebellrose

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 00:23

There are still plenty of disposable pens being made, in both ballpoint and rollerball / gel formats.

 

I think they should use a biodegradable plastic for those types of writing instruments.  Flashy and florescent looking plastics are visually tempting, but terrible for the environment.  I have seen some disposable pens coated in a plastic for coloration.  They should take that opportunity to make the core part of the pen biodegradable.

 

I think it would also be a good idea to have pen recycling bins at places like large chain stores that sell stationery.  They usually have bins for cellphones and plastic bottles.  Why not pens?

 

But in the grand scheme of things, there's far more plastic waste from bottling, bags, and cosmetic products.  Ever heard of microbeads?  Plastic Microbeads -- Ban the Bead.  It's an insidious problem, because they're microscopic.  They're in many personal care products such as anti-age lotions, soaps, creams, body washes, and toothpastes,   You don't even realize the stuff is going down the drain and into the refuse line that eventually leads to the ocean.  Sea life is ingesting these microbeads... and it's wreaking havoc on the health of sea life.

Staples already has that in partnership with Parker/Waterman/papermate. I dumped all my dried up pens at staples the other day. I got more to go though and dump when I have some time. However Staples USA doesn't seem to have that. You can check at your local staples to see if they have a bin. My local staples is in partnership with Rubbermaid to collect all their dead pens and recycle them. The upside of it is that the company will take any brand but Staples is now trending towards selling only Rubbermaid brands so that the only brands they end up collecting are Rubbermaid brands


Edited by bluebellrose, 21 February 2018 - 00:29.


#18 Thornton

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 16:09

I got out of fountain pens for a while, and amassed a huge collection of disposable pens. I've since donated them to schools or let my office mates take their pick. When I buy disposable now I go with the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip or Pentel EnerGel, which both use recycled plastic, and can be refilled. Aside from that I'm trying to stick with fountain pens and mechanical pencils.


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#19 MYU

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 08:18

Staples already has that in partnership with Parker/Waterman/papermate. I dumped all my dried up pens at staples the other day. I got more to go though and dump when I have some time. However Staples USA doesn't seem to have that. You can check at your local staples to see if they have a bin. My local staples is in partnership with Rubbermaid to collect all their dead pens and recycle them. The upside of it is that the company will take any brand but Staples is now trending towards selling only Rubbermaid brands so that the only brands they end up collecting are Rubbermaid brands

Excellent!  Good to hear that STAPLES in Canada does this.  I'm going to check my local STAPLES here in the USA... and if they're not doing it, I'll contact their corporate office to see if they might consider it.


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#20 wallylynn

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 19:52

Have you looked into Noodler's pens and inks? Mr. Nathan takes it as a point of pride to design his pens to last as long as possible, and using vegetal resin (i don't know how biodegradable it is, but it's not petroleum, and it's not meant to be disposed of anyway), and ebonite (rubber). He had refillable highlighters and rollerballs. I don't know if still available, they're very niche.




And his inks deliberately in recyclable glass, not plastic (except for a bottle shortage) His inks are also very potent and easily diluted, if you're really stingy, you can make one little bottle last a lifetime.


Still, I don't think the single-use nature of pens is itself a problem. I don't know of anyone that actually finishes a pen and throws it away. They're always lost or dried up long before that. I've lost, say 3, fountain pens, but only used up one ball point to empty.

Rather, it's the worthlessness of mass produced items. It's cheaper to get a new one than to reuse. We wouldn't be recycling if government didn't mandate it. We're a disposable society. I don't mean just recent generations. My parents and grandparents, yes they'd use pencils to the stub. But meanwhile, they'd also buy and collect dozens more for a rainy day that never comes, to just rot.






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