‘Green grandmother’ rounds up thousands of pens for recycling

A woman from Blandford, N.S., is trying to make the world a greener place — one pen at a time.

Claudia Zinck started collecting pens, markers, highlighters and mechanical pencils for recycling three years ago, and has so far amassed roughly 3,500.

“What do we do with a pen? We throw it in the trash and think nothing of it,” said Zinck, the environment co-ordinator for the Parish of Blandford.

“But when you see the pens we collected, you get to realize how much that actually makes in a pile and how much plastic it is.”

Zinck has set up eight boxes — many with homemade embellishments — at collection points in Blandford, Chester, Gold River and Hubbards. 

At the end of each year, the boxes are sent off for recycling through Staples Canada. The pens are then melted down and used to make items such as cutting boards and clipboards.

Zinck has started collecting bottle caps for recycling through Matt’s Bottle Exchange in Eastern Passage, N.S.(Submitted by Claudia Zinck)

A self-proclaimed “green grandmother,” Zinck has been promoting the program mostly by word of mouth and “bragging any way I can.”

“I just try to talk about it as much as I can,” said Zinck, adding that there’s usually an influx of donations at the start of the school year, the end of the school year and after Christmas.

Despite the lack of advertising, uptake in the parish’s pen recycling program has been increasing every year.

Only a few hundred pens were collected in 2017 and that number grew to around 500 the following year.

Last year, 3,110 were collected. But more than half of the bounty came from an unlikely source: a man who had collected 1,656 pens.

“He had been saving pens for 49 years, and when he heard of our project, he brought those into the municipality office and donated them,” she said with a laugh.

One person, one act

Zinck has now also started collecting bottle caps, rounding up 24 pounds of caps in 2018 and 43 pounds in 2019.

The caps are recycled through a bottle exchange in Eastern Passage, N.S.

“These are the things that kill our seabirds and our mammals and sea life and we need to protect the oceans and land,” she said. 

Zinck noted that each year, office supplies giant Bic produces billions of writing instruments.

She said she hopes her project prompts others to think twice about throwing their dead pens into the garbage.

“Just one person doing one thing makes a big difference,” said Zinck. “We had one box and it expanded to eight and 3,000 pens, because of one person and one act.”

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