Leave it to a Hawaiian-based company to give environmentally conscious folks one less thing to feel guilty about when it comes using up something destined for their nearest landfill. It's called the Eco-Pen.
Research indicates that U.S. consumers toss out more than 1.5 billion ballpoint pens each year. Most are marketed as disposable, yet they are made of materials that won't breakdown for decades.
So in 2009, ACME Studio of Kula, Hawai'i released the Eco-Pen ($2), a writing tool with a body made of cornstarch plastic, a biodegradable compound built to decompose in a year. (Editor's note: The ink cartridge is NOT biodegradable.)
I recently ordered three of these pens. They come in an assortment of 12 colors. Each features a three-sided ergonomic grip and a ballpoint that writes in a medium-sized stroke with an even flow. I quickly came to trust the pens for serious household tasks such as signing cheques and personalizing greeting cards.
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And here's my strange tie-in. A few years ago, my wife ordered second-tier garden soil from a local landscape and garden center. As we raked the soil into our backyard berm filled with native plants, we discovered a disposable ballpoint pen somehow had been mixed in with the delivery from the garden center's truck. Had it been an ACME Studio Eco-Pen, I could have pulled out the ink cartridge and dropped the body back into the soil.
Now, I look forward to the day when my first Eco-Pen runs dry so I can toss it into my composting bin and run an experiment. And I will know when the end is near for the pen because there's a "porthole" allowing the owner to gauge the ink level.
A 12-pen box of the ACME Studio Eco-Pen has a listed price of $23.76. Go to the company website to find the nearest retailer.
To learn more about cornstarch plastic and other bioplastics (PLA), visit this page of WorldCentric.org.