The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) is always looking for new ways to help law firms and offices reduce their environmental impact, and this week, we have come across another one. The kicker? The product in question is something that is a necessity in the workplace (for lawyers especially!), is used many times per day (oftentimes more than one is used per day), and each year, millions of them needlessly end up in landfills across the country. What are we talking about? Anyone?
Pens. That’s right, pens. The program is called the Writing Instruments Brigade, and it started when Sanford Brands (a division of Newell Rubbermaid) partnered with eco innovator TerraCycle with a goal to create a “second life” for writing instruments. So how does it work? The process is simple — send used writing instruments to TerraCycle via mail and they either recycle or repurpose the materials. It can’t be that easy, you might be thinking. What products do they allow? How much does it cost to ship? Are there fees to sign up or cancel participation? Worry not, because TSL did all the research for you.
- It’s not just pens. The Writing Instruments Brigade accepts any size pen, pencil, mechanical pencil, wooden pencil, marker, highlighter, sharpies and dry erase markers. Even though they partnered with PaperMate and Sharpie, the brigade accepts these products regardless of brand.
- The Writing Instruments Brigade pays for you to ship your writing utensils to them. Once you sign up, you download a pre-paid UPS return label on your online account. TerraCycle will also send pre-paid labels to you via mail per request. In addition, there is no packaging requirement for shipping, you can send in boxes big or small or even envelopes if you like. TerraCycle does ask that you try and reuse your shipping materials, though.
- Signing up to the Writing Instruments Brigade is free. All you need to do is have one contact person to oversee the instruments at your location, an e-mail address and a mailing address. It really couldn’t be any easier.
It doesn’t end there. Each approved writing instrument received earns you two TerraCycle point. What do you do with TerraCycle points? You can either redeem them for a variety of recycled products (they repurpose the materials sent to them to make creative and useful items), or convert it into money. Two points is one cent, and you can send that money to the non-profit organization or school of your choice. It just keeps getting better.
Currently, the brigade has over 1,250 collection locations that have collected 452,941 units, and is looking for more. Will you be the next to sign on to the brigade?