Can You Recycle Pens, Markers, And Highlighters? (Full Guide)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Pens, markers, and highlighters are common necessities of everyday life for many. However, can you recycle them? What is the best way to dispose of them?

These are just a few common questions asked by many. So keep reading to find out how to properly dispose of these items and more!

Can You Recycle Pens, Markers, and Highlighters?

Pens, markers, and highlighters can be recycled and upcycled by the companies that manufacture and create these products. Furthermore, in an effort to enhance sustainability, companies like BIC and other sponsors of Terracycle’s Writing Instrument Brigade, offer ways to get your writing instruments recycled.

You may be wondering how these stationary instruments can be recycled and used without harming the environment well keep reading to learn how you can recycle pens, markers, and highlighters! 

How To Recycle Pens, Markers, And Highlighters

Recycling pens, markers, and highlighters is easy to do once you’ve separated all the components of these writing instruments.

This is because not all components can be reused or recycled, such as ink or dry colors. 

However, most exterior pieces can be compiled to recycle. 

Although different brands and manufacturers of pens, markers, and highlighted products differ in appearance, the makeup of the products generally remains the same. 

Therefore, to recycle and re-use parts of these items, it is best to disassemble and separate the main pieces listed:

Pens Markers Highlighters
Pen caps Plastic barrel Plastic barrel
Outer pen tube Marker cap Highlighter cap
Pen tip

Furthermore, complete pens, markers, and highlighters must be separated by types of plastic and type of material because not all the components of the pens are deemed recyclable. 

Therefore, separating the components is easy as many resources have paved the way to recycling pens, markers, and highlighters.   

Where To Recycle And Upcycle Pens, Markers, And Highlighters?

Recycling pens, markers, and highlighters may seem daunting but there are resources that will help you take on the challenge. 

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Furthermore, many of the companies and manufacturers that create stationery items have partnered up to help the environment and reduce the amount of these small items in landfills. 

In addition to recycling through a company or a local recycling center, there are also ways to donate and upcycle these writing instruments. 

Therefore, instead of immediately recycling, you should always find a way to upcycle pens, markers, and highlighters first. 

Continue reading as the resources below are a great way to clear out your drawers and get started!

Terracycle’s Writing Instrument Brigade

An easy way to recycle empty stationery items is through Terracycle’s Writing Instrument Brigade

Furthermore, BIC and Terracycle have partnered up to provide an easy way to recycle all brands of empty writing instruments by following these easy steps:

  • Request a Zero Waste Box from Terracycle, or purchase at a supporting location
  • Collect at least 7 pounds of empty pens, markers, and highlighters of any brand
  • Put the empty pens, markers, and highlighters into the box
  • Print shipping label
  • Attach a shipping label to the box and seal the box
  • Ship the box
  • Check out local recycling centers and how to prepare recyclable pens, markers, and highlighters 
  • Donate pens, markers, and highlighters to artists like The Pen Guy
  • Upcycle ink from pens, markers, and highlighters to create art 
  • Check out crafting and art DIY projects for old pens, markers, and highlighters

Since these small writing instruments are used in different settings like schools and offices, they are often bought, forgotten, and lost within a short amount of time. 

Therefore, teaming up with coworkers, schools, and organizations, and even hosting a recycling event can help communities work together to help the environment.  

What Materials Are Pens, Markers, And Highlighters Made From?

What Materials Are Pens, Markers, And Highlighters Made From?

Brands of pens, markers, and highlighters differ in their exterior makeup and ink colors. 

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However, the basics of the products that are sold include plastic exteriors and an ink barrel within the tubes that house the ink in pens, markers, and highlighters. 

Furthermore, these chemicals and materials compose the writing instruments that are famously used and loved every day. 

For the most part, these are the ingredients or formulas of writing instruments that are commonly used:

Pens Markers Highlighters 
Polymer copolymer (PPC) 

Galvanized Iron 

Stainless Steel 


Metal Alloys 









Acrylic polymer 



Glycol Solvent







Not all the components used to make these items are recyclable or even re-usable. 

That is why It is important to know the difference between these items to be able to separate them properly.

Furthermore, plastic is also often a major piece of each writing device.

Additionally, recyclable plastic is separated into seven categories:

  • PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
  • HDPE (High-density polyethylene)
  • V or PVC (vinyl)
  • LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
  • PP (polypropylene)
  • PS (polystyrene)
  • Other (miscellaneous)

Moreover, plastic pieces made from High-density polyethylene (HDPE) qualify under #2 category plastics and are recyclable. 

Another common plastic used in ballpoint pens is Polypropylene Copolymer (PPC) and it is also recyclable. 

Furthermore, most highlighters and markers include pieces made with polyethylene or polyester beads, found under category #1 of recyclable plastic.  

However, contacting a local recycling center can help you learn how to recycle your items and find resources for reducing and recycling waste. 

Are Pens, Markers, And Highlighters Bad For The Environment?

Pens, markers, and highlighters are known items that pile up in landfills. 

This is bad for the environment because these items often include different kinds of plastic and materials that are not biodegradable, and these materials give off toxic gases. 

Therefore, the long-term effects of these landfills include an increase in fires and the destruction of animal habitats. 

Furthermore, according to, companies like BIC sell millions of pens and stationery items each year alone. 

Imagine several businesses in the industry profiting through the sale of these products each year, and how much of it is discarded and added to landfills. 

Therefore, although many of these companies have switched to environmentally-conscious production and design, that still leaves a lot of plastic that is discarded and unaccounted for.

However, many businesses and manufacturers have created eco-friendly and biodegradable pens, markers, and highlighters as an alternative to decrease the risk of toxicity to the planet. 

By these companies doing this, it has helped keep millions of products from being part of heaping piles in landfills.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle bamboo products, whether you can recycle wax paper, and whether you can recycle Ziploc bags.


Pens, Markers, and Highlighters are easily recyclable through helpful resources like Teracycle’s Writing Instrument Brigade. This organization and its sponsors have taken on the challenge of recycling used stationery items like pens, markers, and highlighters to help the environment. 

Furthermore, recycling these items will help the environment and prevent continuous harm by not ending up in landfills. Also, by utilizing the resources to recycle these items and purchasing eco-friendly stationery, we encourage more businesses to become environmentally-conscious.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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