My Writing is Compost-Worthy - and That's a Good Thing!

Jul 29, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Attractive, comfortable, writes pretty well, ink refillable.

Cons:Not all of it is compostable/recyclable; you still have to throw out the innards.

The Bottom Line: The Bottom Line always knew its writing-workshop partners were right: its work was only fit for the compost pile.

I love pens, but I feel guilty about buying new ones when I have many, many perfectly functional yet non-exciting pens at home. But a pen that was biodegradable – that would be my ticket to guilt-free consumerism! Right? Well, not totally, but Papermate’s Biodegradable pens are definitely a step in the right direction.

These biodegradable pens are made out of a bioplastic called Mirel™, whose main ingredient is corn sugar, or dextrose. The dextrose is derived from industrial-grade U.S. corn, an abundant natural resource. The plastic is made to be heat- and moisture-resistant (melts in the ground, not in your hand!) and biodegrade only when buried in soil or home compost. “As long as it is not exposed to a microbial environment such as soil or compost, it has the same expected performance as traditional plastic pens,” says Papermate’s website.

So what does it mean that this pen is biodegradable? More specifically, it means that the pen is compostable – and not all of it, at that.  The barrel of the pen (the beige-colored part) is the corn plastic; the inner workings and clicker are regular old throwaway plastic. To dispose of it, you disassemble it and bury the corn plastic part in a compost heap; the non-recyclable parts go in the trash. According to their website, “under normal temperature conditions found in soil/home compost, the product’s biodegradable components biograde in about a year.” Note: this does NOT work in a landfill! It only works in the moist, bacteria-laden conditions of a compost heap, so if you don’t have one, you’ll have to give it to someone who does (and who doesn’t mind babysitting your dead pen for a year). Of course, the pen is refillable with blue or black ink refills, so hopefully you’ll do that and extend its useful life further.

OK, enough hippie stuff – how does the pen actually write?  Overall, quite well. The pen is an attractively neutral beige-and-sage combo that stands out just a bit from the regular primary-color palette of office supplies: red pen, yellow highlighter, blue ballpoint. The light-green rubberized grip flares out just enough to give you a comfy, cushy hold on the pen to make it easier to hold for extended writing periods.  The 1.0 mm line is dark and even, with an occasional ink blob that gathers on the ball and needs to be scribbled away onto scratch paper, but no more so than a typical ballpoint pen.  In general, I like the way Papermate pens write, and these are comfortable pens with a pleasing appearance.

These pens are allegedly available in black, blue, red, and purple ink, although I’ve only seen black so far. A 2-pack is about $3 and a 4-pack runs about $6, so it won’t set you back too far to try them out.  And as long as you have a compost heap – or know someone who does – you can feel eco-friendly about your pen purchase, too!

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