The airing of the BBC wildlife series Blue Planet 2 in late 2017 has focused attention on the devastating impact plastic is having on marine life and prompted businesses and consumers to consider the effects of their own actions and choices. In a recent survey of 900 businesses conducted on behalf of Close Brothers Asset Finance, 83% of respondents agreed that plastic waste was a problem. Almost two thirds (63%) say they have already put in place programmes to reduce the amount of waste they generate, with 54% actively investigating alternatives to plastic. Small steps they may be, but initiatives like charging for plastic bags or phasing out plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds highlight simple actions consumers can take to minimise their consumption of plastic. Office workers don’t have to look far to find workplace equivalents. Root around in any desk pedestal, filing cabinet, rucksack or handbag and you are likely to come up with fistfuls of abandoned pens, on top of those stored in desk tidies, pen pots and mugs. Eventually these will all enter the waste stream. As a symbol of our throwaway society, the disposable pen is right up there with fast food wrappers and plastic drinks bottles, so what can office workers do to reduce their environmental impact? n Choose recycled. Leading brands like STABILO, Pilot and Pentel all have dedicated green ranges containing writing instruments with a recycled content of at least 50% and often much more – the Pilot B2P (bottle 2 pen) ballpoint made from recycled drinks bottles is as much as 94% recycled. n Refill not landfill. You don’t buy a new printer every time it needs more toner, and you shouldn’t buy a new pen just because it has run out of ink. Many of today’s most popular pens can be refilled, but few pen users do this; they might not know the pen is refillable or can’t easily find the refill they need. Vanya Hunter, marketing manager at STABILO, says most STABILO refills are sold through online retailers “as listing space is at a premium in shops”. Go online to find refills or ask your supplier to order them for you. n Packaging matters. It’s not just the pen itself that can have a negative impact on the environment, but also the packaging it comes in. Choose products with less packaging, no plastic packaging or reusable packaging. Some pens come in plastic wallets or tins, which can be used to protect the pens or to store something else. n Recycle at end of life. If a pen cannot be refilled or is clearly past its best, dispose of it carefully. Your existing recycling company may be able to take the pens, but if not, consider a specialist pen collection scheme like theWriting Instruments Recycling Programme run by BIC in partnership with TerraCycle. More than 550 collection points in schools across the UK accept any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter, marker, correction fluid pot, correction tape, mechanical pencil and eraser pen. These are then cleaned, melted down and remoulded into new products. If your workplace is not already implementing the measures outlined above, now might be a good time to start; awareness of the damage plastic is doing has never been higher, nor has the desire to do something about it. Small steps perhaps, but steps in the right direction. ENVIRONMENT 20 | P2P Magazine 01732 759725 Plastic and pens Are you doing enough to reduce the environmental impact of ballpoints, highlighters and marker pens?