can you recycle pencils?

This article discusses whether conventional pencils can be recycled with ease. We also discuss the various ways one can reuse and recycle pencils at their convenience.

Can you recycle pencils?

Because most pencils are constructed of recyclable materials, they can be recycled. 

Graphite, metal ferrules, and natural or synthetic rubber are used to make wooden pencils, which are typically produced from cedar and its species, as well as graphite, metal ferrules, and natural or synthetic rubber.

Mechanical pencils, on the other hand, come with a reusable metal or plastic shell and graphite “lead” sticks. Mechanical pencils are not recyclable, although wooden pencils, which make up the bulk, are.

However, this does not imply that recycling wooden pencils is a simple process. Such pencils are almost never accepted in recycling bins. 

This is due to the fact that the technique used to treat pencil wood (especially low-grade varieties) makes them non-recyclable.

Even if merely to compensate for the amount of trees utilised in their manufacture, it is still vital to keep pencil debris out of landfills. 

One way to accomplish this is to use every centimetre of the pencil. This manner, usable pencils would not be thrown away.

The ferrule, the metal element that holds the rubber/eraser in place, is the most recyclable part of a pencil. Brass or aluminium can be used for this. In large amounts, both metals can be easily recycled.

Pencils, along with crayons, are one of the first writing tools we encounter. What method did you use to learn your ABCs? Pencils. 

What did you do to learn how to spell your own name? Or do you want to make your first basket? Pencils. Even though many of us “outgrow” pencils, they remain essential work tools for painters, designers, and others in related industries.

It’s no surprise, however, that pencils, along with knives, abacuses, and the compass, were once considered among the most significant instruments in human history by Forbes magazine.

Every year, around 14 billion pencils are used around the world due to their widespread use. Pencils are constructed of graphite and wood or plastic components.

However, only lead sticks, which are actually graphite glazed in clay, are used to learn the ABCs or create your first basket. The rest are shaven into dustbins, thrown away, or something along those lines.

You might wish to consider using environmentally friendly pencils made from recyclable materials. Seed pencils, such as Sprout, also come with seeds. 

Simply plant the stub of your pencil after you’ve finished using it, and within a month, you’ll have a new veggie or tree in your garden.

If you have a fireplace, you can collect pencil stubs and use them for kindling fires if you can’t think of anything else to do with them. 

What to do with pencils?

Since recycling seems to be so much of a hassle for pencils, one is left with only two alternatives: composting, and reusing or repurposing the various parts of a pencil.

Can pencils be composted?

The majority of pencils are composed of biodegradable materials, although some are not (such as those with plastic casings). However, not every portion of a pencil made primarily of biodegradable materials is biodegradable.

The wood used for the pencil stick in many wooden pencils is pest resistant and long lasting. Even though significant processing is sometimes employed to make the wood decompose very slowly, these sticks are biodegradable.

The “lead” used to write or draw, on the other hand, is formed of graphite, a natural crystalline carbon that is akin to diamond. This mineral is most commonly found in igneous and metamorphic rocks.

As a result, it is rarely biodegradable or photodegradable. It might, however, be utilised in composting because plants can absorb its carbon.

The ferrule, which is the metal component of a pencil that holds the erasers, is likewise non-biodegradable. The metal cylinder is known as a pencil ferrule, and it is usually made of brass or aluminium.

The majority of pencil ferrules, on the other hand, are constructed of brass, which has a higher strength than aluminium.

The erasers themselves are typically constructed of natural or synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubbers, on the other hand, are not biodegradable.

However, there are environmentally friendly pencils made entirely of biodegradable materials. Take a look at BIC pens, for example.

How to reuse or repurpose pencils

There are numerous ways one can reuse or repurpose pencils and pencil parts for various requirements in the house. Some of these are:

  • Use old pencils as a plant marker
  • Decorate the top of a desk or table
  • Jewellery Making
  • Seedling Sticks
  • Making toys for kids from old pencils
  • Making a Coffee Stirrers

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Use old pencils as a plant marker

More than just writing can be done with old pencils. Use old pencils to mark where you’ve planted seeds or seedlings in your garden as plant markers.

Even though the tip has worn down, the pencil still has enough point to be used for this function. Write the kind of plants in each region of your garden with permanent ink pens so you know when to water and care for them appropriately.

More than just writing can be done with old pencils. Use old pencils to mark where you’ve planted seeds or seedlings in your garden as plant markers.

Even though the tip has worn down, the pencil still has enough point to be used for this function. Write the kind of plants in each region of your garden with permanent ink pens so you know when to water and care for them appropriately.

Decorate the top of a desk or table

Pencils can be used as coasters to beautify the top of a desk or table. To make the tops look shining, decorate them with paint, glue, and glitter. 

Another approach to make use of old pencils is to highlight crucial pages in books you’re reading, particularly textbooks or novels, when you come to a point where something happens that you’ll need to remember later.

Jewellery Making

Pencils can be used to produce jewellery. Make necklaces, bracelets, rings, or earrings using a selection of beads and charms. You can even incorporate the eraser into your jewellery designs.

Making colourful flowers out of discarded pencils is a popular method to recycle them. An empty water bottle (or something similar) with the top cut off, many wooden skewers, glue gun/glue sticks, artificial flowers that fit inside the water bottle opening, wire cutter, and pencil lead shavings or shredded paper for flower petals are all required. 

Cutting little pieces from each skewer with the wire cutter until you have enough florets for your project is the next step. Glue these together around the tip of the skewers, creating a cone-shaped core to which you can attach your flowers.

Seedling Sticks

You can use pencils to define rows for seed planting in your garden. Poke the eraser end into the soil every few inches along your preferred row, then pull it out when your plants are ready. You’ll have a flawless guide without causing any damage to the roots.

Garden stakes, unfortunately, do not last very long in tough environments and must be replaced on a regular basis. 

Instead of buying new pencils, chop down existing plastic-coated or wooden pencils with wire cutters if necessary (or better yet, sharpen both ends).

They are also easy to reposition after they are planted due to the fact that they have a sharp protrusion on one end.

If they become faded over time due to exposure, try rubbing some black paint on the tip until they’re dark enough that their location is more obvious.

Making toys for kids from old pencils

Making toys for children out of discarded pencils is a fantastic way to repurpose your supplies. 

With just a few little, broken pieces of wood, you can construct a variety of crafts in a short amount of time.

You’ll need some ingredients, such as glue and paint, but the rest may be found around the house or in your recycle bin.

Making a Coffee Stirrer

It’s a terrific method to save trash by repurposing pens as coffee stirrers. You may wipe them out and reuse them for this purpose again and again without harming the environment, allowing you to get the most out of your pen.

Then, when it’s time to recycle, chuck them in with the rest of the office supplies that may be recycled.

Conclusion

Pencils, on the most part, can be recycled. The lead present in it is made of pure carbon which can be repurposed for other things, while the ferrule can be molten and used in some other item.

However, the wood in the pencil cannot be recycled, given the fact that it has undergone various chemical processes, thereby rendering it unrecyclable.

For mechanical pencils, the plastic and the metal parts can be recycled quite easily.

Pencils can also be composted, however mechanical pencils made from plastics and metals cannot be composted, as they are non-biodegradable.

However, a pencil can be repurposed for many purposes in the house, as well as used for some fun DIY projects for you as well as for children.

FAQs

Are Pencils More Environmentally Friendly Than Pens?

The issue over whether pencils or pens are more environmentally friendly is a heated one. On both sides of the debate, different logical points exist, and these would be placed against one another, making the decision more difficult.

Nonetheless, some argue that this debate is moot because both pencils and pens have environmental benefits and drawbacks.

The most important thing is to be as environmentally friendly as possible while using either: use environmentally friendly pencils or pens, and recycle or reuse both where possible.

There’s also the option of going totally paperless, in which case you wouldn’t require either.

Can You Put Pencils in The Recycling Bin?

In general, you shouldn’t put pencils in the recycling bin because they can’t be recycled for a variety of reasons:

  • They are non-recyclable because they are made of mixed materials, or they are too small to be recycled.
  • In most cases, wooden pencils fall into the latter category. Unless gathered in sufficient amounts, the pencil shavings/stubs are too small to be separated.

Mechanical pencils are typically made of metal, mixed plastic, or a combination of the two. Some of the plastic isn’t recyclable, while others are too small to separate and recycle.

However, you can always replenish the lead on your mechanical pencil to make it work again. You may alternatively collect them in bulk and send them to recycling companies.

Terracycle is one of the best companies, which takes difficult-to-recycle waste and converts it into materials and products. To do so, grab a box and fill it with any pencils you no longer require. Then send the box directly to them.

References

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