One long-standing argument for fountain pen users is the environmental impact it has on the Earth. Is purchasing a fountain pen over the more common and dependable ballpoint pen really helping mother nature? While most fountain pen users say yes immediately, I’ve gone around the internet and collected some information that can help you decide for yourself.
Are fountain pens eco friendly? Fountain pens, by design, are made to last. That means, even though they are made of plastic, its disposal and waste will not reach the levels of common ballpoint pens. Furthermore, the plastic used for ballpoint pens is generally unrecyclable and lasts for more than 500 years before decomposing.
When it comes to fountain pen information, there are plenty of sources out there that you can gather information from. However, having multiple sources can sometimes be confusing simply because there are as many experiences as there are fountain pens types, brands, and whatnot.
The same can be said when it comes to environmental issues because the impact on nature is mostly dependent on the materials used both in the pen and the ink. From what I gather, the general consensus is that fountain pens are generally eco friendly.
The aim of this article is to illustrate to you the impact of ballpoint vs the fountain pen, through explaining what the impact of the materials used to make is on the environment. There is also the factor of the functionality and practicality of both pens, as both pens do have their advantages and it is important to explore those as well.
Fountain Pen & Ballpoint Pen Materials
As previously stated, the biggest factor concerning the environmental impact of pens is in the materials used to make one. You have to ask yourself where it came from and where it will go after you use it. How long are you going to use it, and afterward, what will happen to it?
Pens by themselves aren’t really the problem here. In fact, we need pens to be productive and to get work done. Not having a writing instrument is not an option we can go with. However, ever increasingly, people have started asking how can we make it so we don’t leave as big a footprint on the environment in the long run?
The answer to that is simple, change what you can. In the case of pens, the thing you can change is the material used to make them.
Fountain Pen Materials
The case of the fountain pen is different from most pens because of all the parts it has.
You have the barrel, the cap, the nib, the feeders, and so on, which all require mostly different materials. They can range from plastic, wood, or even metal. Some pens are even made of fiberglass.
The materials used in the manufacturing of the fountain pen is generally what makes it so pricey. You can expect that using cheaper materials will end up with cheap plastic being used to create different parts of a… more affordable fountain pen.
There will be noticeable differences, of course. Generally, better and more expensive materials will make for a better experience for the user, especially when it comes to the nib. Some materials will make the pen heavier, lighter, or more balanced, playing on the comfortability factor of the pen. Some materials will just make slippery as heck.
The nib is no exception. Having a nib with better materials will, of course, make it last longer and let you write better as well.
You still have to account for diminishing returns when it comes to materials and prices. A fountain pen can only be so good. Of course, there are also personal preferences to consider with fountain pens.
For the ink, fountain pen inks are water-based and biodegradable. They use dye and pigments to get the color and are generally very eco friendly, especially for newer inks.
However, there is the case of glitter inks that have microlitter in them, them being the glitter itself. While not as eco-friendly as other newer inks, having this ink in the right hands, like that of an artist or a ”pro”, will minimize its effects on the environment.
From what I understand, newer inks are formulated and designed to be just that, environment friendly. Older inks going around were made without the awareness of the effects on the earth, so you can understand why they’re that way.
Now that you have an idea of the materials used for fountain pens and ink, to better understand its impact on the environment you have to understand the materials of ballpoints as well.
Ballpoint Pen Materials
A pen is a pen, I guess.
Like the fountain pen, ballpoints are also made up of plastic and metal. The key difference is the kind of plastic that is used in its manufacturing. While the fountain pen utilizes many kinds of plastic, the plastic used in making ballpoint pens is polystyrene and polypropylene.
These plastics are generally non-biodegradable, what’s more, is that the production of these results in chlorofluorocarbons, in other words, CLC. CLC is the greenhouse gas mainly thought to have punched a hole in the ozone layer.
Keep in mind, not all kinds of polystyrene are non-biodegradable.
Recently, now that people are more aware that some materials a bad for the environment, they have taken steps to change the way they make ballpoint altogether. More and more, the plastic being used is being adapted into one that will be better for the earth in the long run.
There is also the ink for ballpoints, which are oil-based. Of course, since these inks are being used and smeared on paper, you won’t have to think about its environmental footprint on the earth after. However, it is the sourcing of materials that you have to consider.
The good news is, with the advent of eco-friendly pens, ballpoints are adapting to the times and becoming more earth-friendly.
Of course, some fountain pens themselves may also use these kinds of plastics, and in turn, those fountain pens are also not biodegradable. Keep this in mind because we will explore the practical uses and why the materials play such an important role.
Practicality & Function
The key aspect to watch out for is the usage of both kinds of pens, given their materials.
For the fountain pen, the materials used give it weight, balance, and better control of the pen. This will usually result in the user having a better experience simply because he doesn’t have to press down as hard on the pen.
The nib also helps in conjunction with the water-based ink. This is due to the ink requiring capillary action to write, in effect letting the pen glide through the paper or writing medium without much friction.
You might be wondering, is this all necessary? Well, if you have a job that requires you to write all day then yes. It is. Students will have the same benefits, as well. Reducing hand fatigue and just overall giving the user a better experience.
What’s more, is that once you run out of ink, all you have to do is refill it from an ink bottle(always have a spare). You won’t need to keep on replacing it, and this process can be repeated over and over again.
I guess this was all just a long-winded way of saying that fountain pens are made to last. They aren’t the kinds of pens that you use once and throw them away. Or they’re not the kind of things you can simply put in your pocket and forget about, not caring whether they fall out or not.
Once you buy a fountain pen, you take care of it and you appreciate the benefits it gives you.
It’s also not uncommon that fountain pens become heirlooms. These are usually for more expensive fountain pens, but you get the idea. Well-made fountain pens last.
For ballpoints, the product lifecycle is pretty simple.
They are the most accessible pens in the market, hands-down. You buy them at your local convenience store for cheap and you can use them instantly. No-fuss, no-frills.
You don’t have to clean them every so often, you don’t have to refill the ink, you don’t have to go through a small learning curve to use them properly. You just use them.
While that may sound appealing, the main drawback is that they are harder to use. The barrel is much more narrow, the mechanics of it require you to push down harder, the strain on your hand is much more painful.
Yes. If you barely have to use a pen, the ballpoint makes sense. As long as you don’t throw it away with one use and take care of it while it has ink, hands-down, it makes sense.
But here’s the thing, how long has a ballpoint lasted for you before it got lost? There are always the outliers that can make it last effectively, but the greater population uses it but once and loses them.
There is a matter of price when it comes to making decisions between buying a fountain pen and a ballpoint, and when it comes to everyday use pens, I have to admit a $1 pen vs a $100 pen is no competition.
However, here’s the thing. Fountain pen brands are beginning to embrace the everyday use of pens and are designing cheaper fountain pens more and more. Case in point, me. My everyday pen is a fountain pen worth $3. It’s a Jinhao x450… what’s more, is I even think I accidentally bought a knockoff. Still, the benefits of the fountain pen aren’t lost to me.
Environmental Impact Of Non-biodegradable Plastic
An estimated 8.3 BILLION metric tons of plastic have been made since the 1950s according to a UN – Plastic collective report. Of that, 6.3 billion metric tons are just lounging around landfills or making their way to the ocean as microplastic litter. Only 9% of those are able to be recycled.
Plastic weighs so lightly that it can get carried away by the wind or storms, or just everyday natural occurrences into the sea. That means that animals come in contact with it, some of them eat it, not knowing any better, some of them get tangled in it, slowly dying.
This isn’t a guilt trip by any means. These are just facts about plastic. However, knowing this does give you some perspective on the scale of plastic up and about in the world now, right?
Whether or not a pen is eco-friendly is mainly based on the materials used and the usage patterns of the owner.
If you buy a $3 fountain pen and just throw it away once the cartridge is used up then what’s the point? Just buy the ballpoint instead.
The thing that makes a fountain pen eco-friendly is that it can last for longer with you. If you’re able to make it endure the test of time and care of it, it may be the only pen you’ll ever need. Unlikely, of course, but possible.
With the right combination of cost and quality, you can make a pen worth the value.
You won’t be making a $400 fountain pen purchase for everyday use if you’re the average user. However, a $50 investment and $10 worth of bottle ink will more than last you for a year or two.
This isn’t to deter you from buying a ballpoint, but it does help if you at least check if the ballpoint you are buying is eco-friendly. It may cost a bit more, but not much. You won’t be breaking the bank. Just make sure that the next ballpoint you buy lasts for more than one use, and that will help a plastic ton.. Get it? I guess not, but I’ll leave it there.
By the way, if you are looking for eco-friendly fountain pens, Japanese brands are actually making fountain pens from recycled plastic. Be sure to check it out if you are interested in investing in an environment-friendly fountain pen.