What Are the Dangers of Disposing of Ballpoint Pens?

Ballpoint pen disposal isn't difficult.
Ballpoint pen disposal isn't difficult. (Image: pen image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com)

Ballpoint pens are a common writing tool because they are inexpensive and effective. However, ballpoint pens have a number of disadvantages over other, more expensive pens. Some of these disadvantages present themselves long after you’re finished using a ballpoint pen when you are ready to dispose of it.

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Running

Unless the ink in the pen has dried up, your pen’s ink could run, which is typically not a problem because you’re throwing the pen out with other trash and don’t care whether the ink runs onto the other items in the trash. However, when tying off and carrying a trash bag where you’ve disposed of ballpoint pens, exercise some caution to ensure that any ink that has run from the pen won’t get on your hands.

Pricking

A ballpoint pen is a sharp object that can prick you when you’re carrying the trash out to the curb. A ballpoint pen that has been disposed of without its cap on can easily poke through a plastic trash bag. Thus, when disposing of pens, place the cap on the pen, which can also help prevent ink from running everywhere.

Slow to Decompose

Ballpoint pens sit in landfills for a long time because they are typically made of materials that decompose extremely slowly, such as polyethylene and polystyrene. While you can put the plastic parts of a ballpoint pen into the plastic recycling bin, you must first remove the ink tube and any metal parts, such as clips, and dispose of those in the trash before putting the plastic casing of the pen in the recycling bin.

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