pen2paper Image for Development of the Paper Pen Sleeve

Development of the Paper Pen Sleeve

At Pen Warehouse, we are part of an industry which uses plastics abundantly, particularly when protecting samples in transit to distributors and end users. Many of these plastics are recyclable, but it’s shocking to know that in 2018 it was revealed that only 9% of the plastic produced at the time of the study had been recycled, with 79% accumulating in landfills1.

As a leading supplier of promotional materials, what better way to use our influence than to aid in the reduction of the catastrophic environmental impact these plastics are causing? One year ago, Pen Warehouse started a mission to investigate alternative materials to plastic that we could use for pen sleeves (one of our biggest areas of packaging plastic usage). We set out looking at every conceivable material and narrowed it down to two, bioplastics and paper.

Bioplastic

This material is touted as the holy grail of plastics for the following reasons:

  • Some bioplastics are compostable
  • Potential to lower the carbon footprint2
  • Production is more energy efficient – using less energy than conventional plastics2

Although there are many positives to using bioplastics, our R&D Team, led by Dr Rebecca Townsend has been following the trend for these materials for some time, flagging some major concerns:

  • Whilst bioplastics are potentially recyclable most authorities have not yet established a means of doing so resulting in the large majority ending up in the normal waste stream.
  • Most bioplastics which are marked as compostable are only able to be composted under specific conditions at industrial facilities.
  • Some bioplastics are marked as home compostable; however many UK households do not have their own compost heaps and local councils do not generally allow bioplastics to be placed in food waste bins.
  • Bioplastic is only potentially compostable if it is unprinted. Print contaminates a compost heap and carries the risk of poisonous compounds from the ink entering the food chain.
  • Several bioplastics are grown from crops which makes them sustainable. However, fertilisers and pesticides needed for such crops are not always environmentally friendly and, in some locations, deforestation has also taken place in order to provide growing space.

It is now being considered that bioplastics are another example of “greenwashing”3. As a result of this, we have decided that using bioplastics as a suitable material for packaging would be counterproductive as it could be much worse in the long term than our current plastics.

Paper

Many of the advantages of paper are well known:

  •  Paper is recyclable
  •  Paper can be put into domestic recycling waste
  • Paper degrades in normal landfill conditions.
  • Paper is universally accepted as an environmentally friendly material and as such sends an unambiguous message to the consumer.  Particularly when it comes from a sustainable source.

Our biggest hurdle in developing a suitably sized paper sleeve for pens and pencils was actually finding a willing partner that would adapt their machinery to producing such a limited product range. Additionally, it required investments in environmentally friendly adhesives and high-speed motion control to truly benefit from economies of scale. After much work and cost we now believe we have a commercially viable solution to bring an end to the use of cellophane sleeves for pens, pencils and a wide range of promotional items.

References  

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/ 
  2. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/12f0/e6a84924a96c0a985e30dfadac57e50f2610.pdf
  3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/are-bioplastics-made-from-plants-better-for-environment-ocean-plastic/
Thumbnail Image of A.T Cross Logo

The History of A.T. Cross Company

The A.T. Cross Company is America’s oldest manufacturer of writing instruments with a history that extends back for almost 170 years.  The era into which the A. T. Cross Company was founded saw great change in the writing instrument industry.  Many writers were still using quill pens or had recently made the transition to more durable dip pens made from a range of precious or durable metals.  Cross’ contribution to this period of pen evolution was the first stylographic pen, often cited as a technological ancestor of the ball point pen in 1879.

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The History of A.T. Cross Company
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The History of the Pencil

Graphite, used in the core of the modern pencil, is not the first example of an element hewn from the ground and used as a mark making tool. This process dates back to the very first examples of human art seen in the prehistoric cave paintings created using charcoal and chalk in the era between 40,000 and 10,000 BC. These substances were ground and mixed into a paste with either saliva or animal fats and smeared onto the porous cave walls.

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The History of the Pencil
Political Graffiti - Kilroy was Here

The Writing on the Wall – Graffiti as Art, History and Politics

In the crypt of the Basilica in Lourdes, south west France, the walls are covered with graffiti. The temporary boundary fences placed around the ruins of the World Trade Center were covered with graffiti within days of the September 11th terrorist attacks. These disparate places and times are connected not just by our common understanding of graffiti, but by our collective need to express often overwhelming emotions and leave our mark for others to identify with. It seems that the tradition of the unsolicited public expression of beliefs and ideas is as old as humanity itself.

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Ballpoint Pen Art by Mark Powell

Dynamic Doodlers – A History of Ballpoint Pen Art

The humble ballpoint pen. Since its introduction to the masses at Gimbel’s New York Department store in 1945, it has become a staple of any office, classroom or study. But whilst John Loud’s original 1888 patent, and the Biro brothers’ later updates in the 1930’s, undoubtedly arrived with the intention of revolutionizing the stationery world, it is unlikely that these innovators could have fathomed the truly marvellous works of pen art that would eventually spring from their bold balled inventions.

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Dynamic Doodlers – A History of Ballpoint Art
Image of Victorian Ink Scraper Eraser

Now You See Me… A History of Erasers

For as long as there has been writing there have been errors and the need of an eraser to correct them.

The first writing implements and surfaces were made for mistakes, as the wet clay used in tablets could simply be smoothed over and new letters formed with the stylus. It is likely that the complexity of the glyphs used in the first written languages seen in Egypt and Sumer (now in southern Iraq) resulted in many mistakes being made as each glyph would be formed individually. It is estimated that Sumerian cuneiform had approximately 1000 different glyphs in its infancy.

In the early Middle Ages, the removal of ink from parchment would be completed with a solution of milk mixed with oat bran. Over time, the original ink would begin to reappear faintly underneath the new writing which has enabled modern scholars to decipher their original contents.

The Victorian era saw the invention of the ink scraper which was a fine pointed and very sharp metal tool used to carefully scrape the ink from the page when mistakes were made.

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Now You See Me… A History of Erasing
IMage of the Zimmerman Telegram

Shhhh! A History of Written Secrets

One of the oldest examples of writing being disguised or changed to hide meaning is seen in a cuneiform tablet dating from 1500 BC. It is believed to contain the recipe for a pottery glaze which the craftsman did not want to share with his fellow artists. By the 5th Century BC, Herodotus, the famous Greek historian, writes of a process that involves the tattooing of a shaved slave’s head and then allowing the hair to regrow before sending the slave to the recipient of the message. The message would then be revealed when the slave was once again shaved.

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A History of Written Secrets
Thumbnail or Pen Tapping Beats

Pen Beats: Tapping into a New Generation

If you have ever been sat at a desk bored, the likeliness is you have found yourself idly pen tapping away on your desk without even realising. But did you ever become so caught up in the rhythm that you found yourself throwing out fills like a desk-bound Dave Grohl? If the answer is yes, then you are already part of a movement that has taken the internet by storm. Pen Tapping Beats has been a thing since late 2006, but has since grown in popularity with new pen beat tapping videos being uploaded daily.

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Pen Beats
Old Newspaper Adverts for Sheaffer Pen

A History of the Sheaffer Pen Corporation

The founder of the Sheaffer Pen Corporation was a remarkable entrepreneur and spirited salesman. Walter Sheaffer was so determined to impress potential  customers of his piano business that he volunteered to assist them with farming or household duties in exchange for an hour to demonstrate his pianos; having travelled up to 20 miles from his shop with his instrument in tow.

 

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A History of the Sheaffer Pen Corporation