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Can You Recycle Pencils?

can you recycle pencils

What do you do to pencils that you have sharpened to an almost unusable stump? Do you just throw them straight into the trash can? There surely must be a better way to go about it. With that said, can you recycle pencils?

With billions of pencils used all over the world every year, you can just imagine how many tons of them find their way to landfills. Because you don’t want to contribute further to this problem, you are looking for a way to dispose of your old pencils in a more eco-friendly way. So, is there a way that you can do this?

This article will explore the possible ways you can recycle all sorts of pencils that you might have.

Is it Possible to Recycle Pens?

So, let’s answer the question: are pencils recyclable? Technically, yes. However, take note that not all components can be recycled. This makes it a bit tricky to recycle.

Why are pencils not entirely recyclable? Pencils are made of wood, aren’t they? Then, by all accounts, they should be easy to recycle, right? That’s not the case, though. Almost all pencil manufacturers use wood that has been treated with chemicals to prevent them from rotting, which means they take longer to biodegrade.

Another issue is that the tin ferrule that holds the eraser and the graphite inside the pencil are not biodegradable. Having these different materials make recycling regular pencils not that cost-effective.

Think about it. You will need to split each individual pencil into its separate components and use different methods for recycling them. This is why most recycling centers do not accept pencils.

How Can You Recycle Pencils?

how can you recycle pencils

Now, just because your average recycling center does not accept pencils, that does not mean you have no other choice other than sending your old pencils to the landfill. There are still some methods that you can use to recycle pencils, colored pencils, and even mechanical pencils.

Dismantling the Pencils Yourself

The first method is quite labor-intensive because you will need to dismantle each pencil by hand. This means you will need to pull off the tin ferrules, and then use a sharp knife to split the pencil to remove the small bit of graphite left in the pencil. After that, you will be recycling the individual parts separately.

Making Use of Recycling Programs

However, if you do not want to go through all that trouble, there is an easier way. First, check the website of the pencil manufacturer. Once you are on the site, search for the company’s recycling program. You can usually find it at the very bottom of the homepage. What you will be looking for there are the printable shipment labels.

Print a shipping label out and save it for later. Get a shipping envelope or a small box. Place the pencils that you want to get recycled inside the container, seal them and slap the shipping label on the package.

The shipping label allows you to send the pencils to the manufacturer without having to pay postage for them. Additionally, some manufacturers’ recycling programs accept pencils and other writing products from other companies.

As you can see, it is completely possible to recycle pencils, and not just regular graphite pencils, but colored pencils and mechanical pencils as well. The first method is kind of difficult, so it might not seem too appealing. However, if you have access to recycling programs that handle writing tools, then you should take advantage of them.

Other Things That You Can Do With Old Pencils

use the pencils as craft materials

What to do with old colored pencils and graphite pencils if you cannot recycle them easily? You just need to unleash your creativity. Some of the things that you can do include:

  • Use the pencils as craft materials – If you like doing arts and crafts, or you have school-age kids, you can use your old graphite and colored pencils as materials.
  • Donate them to a good cause – Even if the pencils are a bit too short for you to use comfortably, they might be the perfect size for young hands. Many charitable foundations are out there accepting donations of old stationery supplies, including pencils.

They will then distribute the supplies to kids in impoverished communities. That way, they will have pencils that they can use for school.

As you can see, there are still things that you can do to prevent your old pencils from going to landfills. You just need to use a bit of creativity and effort to look for them.

How to Reuse/Upcycle Your Old Pencils

what to do with old colored pencils

As mentioned earlier, you can use old graphite and colored pencils as materials for your arts and crafts projects. If you are looking for ideas, here are a couple of crafts projects that you and your family can do together.

  • Old-fashioned pencil log cabins – This is the quintessential craft project using pencils as the medium. You will only need a couple dozen or so old pencils and some hot glue. If you don’t know how to make pencil log cabins, there are plenty of plans online.
  • Picture frames – This is a nice project because the pencils don’t have to be the same length. You can just cut the ends of the pencils evenly so that they can fit together perfectly.
  • Resin projects – If you know how to mix and use resin, you can cover your old colored pencils with clear resin to turn them into pendants and other cute baubles. Obviously, working with resin is not that easy. You may need a few specialized tools to get the best results. However, you can still get respectable results with simple tools and patience.


Can you recycle pencils? Apparently, you can, but not using the usual methods. Since you cannot just toss your old pencils into your usual recycling bin, you will need to be creative and use other means. Although it may take a bit more effort, just knowing that you are doing your part to limit the amount of waste going into landfills makes that bit of extra work worth it.