Are Pencils Recyclable, Biodegradable or Compostable?

About 14 billion pencils are used globally each year, and it is not surprising. Not only do children need them to scribble out their first words, but also adults use them to draw and write.

They are an important part of our society and probably will be for a long time. But what happens to pencils we can’t use anymore? What should we do with those pesky little stubs? Can they be recycled?

Well, that’s what we are going to talk about today.

Can pencils be recycled?

No, pencils can’t be fully recycled. While some parts of a pencil are recyclable, most aren’t. For instance, if you are using a wooden pencil, its ferrule (the metal that holds the eraser) can be recycled while its wood cannot since the wood used to make pencils goes through so much chemical treatment that it becomes unrecyclable.

And mechanical pencils have metallic and plastic parts, too, that can’t be recycled. As such, pencils are usually not accepted by recycling bins to begin with.

Are pencils biodegradable?

Again, some parts of pencils are biodegradable while others are not. For example, the wood used to make most pencils is usually biodegradable. However, the heavy processing it goes through can make it decay slowly. On the other hand, erasers are only biodegradable when they are made of natural rubber.

But do you know what you really need to worry about? Ferrules and the graphite used to write – neither of them biodegrades.

However, graphite does have one major advantage – it can add iron to compost. So even if you are using mechanical pencils that don’t have any biodegradable parts at all, that is at least one thing you can count on.

Nevertheless, there are biodegradable pencils out there.

While some are made of recycled paper and edible food colors, some are made from recycled coffee, tea, and flowers. And if that isn’t enough, there are even seed pencils. Once they are too short to use, you can plant them – it doesn’t get any cooler than that!

Can pencil shavings be added to compost?

Although they decompose quite slowly, pencil shavings are generally biodegradable. As such, they can be used to make compost and mulching.

Since they are usually made of cedarwood, they can even act as a pest deterrent. Coupled with their ability to help retain soil moisture, this makes pencil shavings a great addition to your home garden.

Beyond gardening, pencil shavings can also be used as fuel to a fire or as a resource for art projects.

So if you have a lot of pencil shavings accumulating in your home, just go over to Pinterest and find some beautiful DIY art projects you can use them for.

What should you do with old pencils?

Even if you no longer need or can use your pencils, you shouldn’t just throw them away, there are several things you can do with them. These include:

1. Create art

There are many DIY crafts you can do using old pencils. For one, you could use them to decorate your picture frames.

2. Make jewelry

By chopping old colored pencils into small pieces and gluing these pieces together, you can create earrings and a variety of other jewelry pieces.

3. Use them as starter sticks for seedlings

If you have a garden, you can use old pencils as starter sticks for seedlings. This way, your seedlings have something to cling to as they grow. And you can always remove the sticks afterward and use them for another set of seedlings.

4. Use them as garden markers

This is yet another way to make use of old pencils in your garden. Just poke them into the ground in front of a set of seedlings and write the name of the plant on them. Since they are durable they will be able to withstand the weather for a long time. Just remember to wash them before inserting them into the ground and everything should be okay.

5. Use them to make Christmas tree decorations

You can attach them to other decor pieces to make Christmas tree ornaments and other decor pieces.

6. Use them as spools

Do you have extra thread, wire, or yarn lying around the house? Well, you can wrap them around your old pencils. And since pencils spin easily, releasing the thread when you need to use it is easy

7. Make birdhouses

Old pencils can be stacked and glued together to create beautiful birdhouses that can serve as great toys for your kids and pets.

8. Make some dolls

If you have ever made a doll before, you know how important it is for you to have wooden dowel rods, especially for the arms and the legs. However, when you don’t have any, pencils can be a great substitute for these dowels. They are just as sturdy and you can easily cut them up into any size you desire.

9. Make a pencil holder

By gluing your colored pencils around a circular can, you can create a beautiful pencil holder.

10. Make coasters

If you need some coasters to hold your hot drinks or even to serve as gifts, you can create them using your old pencils. Just take a bunch of them, cut them to the same height, and glue them together.

Are pencils more environmentally friendly than pens?

Since pencils are usually made of wood and graphite while pens are usually made of polystyrene, pencils are generally seen as more environmentally friendly. However, things are not so clear-cut.

The making of pencils is still responsible for the cutting of up to 80,000 trees a year. And to make matters worse, graphite mining leads to the addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Also, pencils have significantly shorter lifespans than pens. Ultimately, it is difficult to say for certain which one is more environmentally friendly. In many ways, they seem to both contribute to environmental harm, especially since they both usually end up in landfills.

Reuse! Reuse! Reuse!

Ultimately, while pencils can’t be recycled, there are so many ways you can reuse them. So don’t beat yourself up. As long as you are not adding to the ones already in the landfills, you should be fine!

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