If we told you that BiC sells 14 million BiC Cristal ballpoint pens a day across the world, you probably wouldn’t be surprised.
But, when you work it out, that’s 171 billion pens since the pen was launched. Unfortunately BiC haven’t returned our calls to tell us what the carbon footprint of this line of pens is, but in terms of the raw materials that make up the pen the emissions would equate to at least 3.7B kgC02.
Factor in distribution and manufacturing, and the total true emissions would conservatively be estimated at over 7B KgCO2. That is the same as one person flying around the world 1,585,789 times.
One pen, one company, one product line. Alarming, isn’t it?
Ohio State University did a piece of analysis of what makes up each BiC. They found that the barrel is made from hardened polystyrene, a cheap plastic that for the first 35 years of production was emitting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the environment (a greenhouse gas 1200 times more destructive than C02). Polystyrene is not biodegradable.
The cap and tube is made from polypropylene, the tip from brass and the ballpoint from tungsten carbide. OSU report that tungsten carbide is considered a conflict mineral as it has fuelled armed disputes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 50% of mines are occupied by militarised groups. Furthermore, they note that the different components make the pen almost impossible to recycle.
It seems a bit unfair to single out BiC; what is true of the world’s favourite pen is true of most of them. The Cristal is simply a manufactured pen and a fraction of the international market.
Ultimately, though, that is the point and no-one talks about it – but we need to.
Our pen is manufactured using corn starch, is certified biodegradable and when you plant it, it is capable of removing over 1000 KgC02 from the atmosphere. That would offset 23,000 Cristal pens. We could offset a day’s production by planting 600 tree pens. It’s a good quality pen that, if not planted, will biodegrade responsibly and you can still use the seeds. Manufactured in Europe by a family-run business we are in partnership with, we’re working together with one common goal – to make the world a better place.
We’re not just about saving the planet, though, we have to build a society worth saving the planet for. All profits from the sale of the pen are invested in social projects, helping families in the UK struggling with dementia, rough sleepers and hungry schoolchildren.
BIC CRISTAL PEN PRODUCTION
RAW MATERIAL EMISSIONS (KG)
ESTIMATED TOTAL EMISSIONS
Carbon emissions (Grams)