Top marks for plastics at start of each year
Brightening up woodless pencils
Parents know it best of all. In school, colouring is the most expensive activity as it uses the most materials. Barely a few weeks after starting school, few pencils successfully survive the pencil sharpener test. And children produce more shavings than actual drawings.
There is no point, therefore, in investing in "artist-quality" coloured pencils without first measuring the child's talent; and particularly the care they employ with the pencils.
However, given that most children love colouring, some manufacturers have sought the perfect solution to the problem by creating pencils made from less rigid, and therefore less breakable, cores. In short: woodless pencils with more flexible nibs.
After acquiring Conté, the company, Bic was able to develop polymers for the four elements of coloured pencils: a polyethylene-based wax core, a synthetic resin casing, the polystyrene "wood" and the external "varnish" indicating the pencil's colour.
Intended first and foremost for children's educational activities and hobbies, these materials meet the requirements of the European safety standard for toys (EN71) guaranteeing non-toxicity of pencils when chewed.
However, the true achievement does not come from each element's individual performance, but rather from their compatibility with each other; it is the basis of the exclusive process which enables the various synthetic materials to be combined in a single operation.
Plastics are burning rubber
It is often said that "to err is human", as mistakes are an essential component of learning. This is the reason behind the eraser used to correct mistakes being as important as the pencil itself.
Up until the mid-17th century, the only means for erasing pencil or charcoal writing was to rub it away with bread. Charles Marie de la Condamine's discovery of latex brought with it the first alternative. In fact, natural rubber was used exclusively for the purpose of erasing pencil marks for nearly fifty years before the process of vulcanisation enabled more effective rubbers made from a mix of rubber, vegetable oil and pumice stone to be used.
Natural or synthetic rubber erasers are still in use although they now face competition from so-called “plastic erasers” made from PVC or other methacrylate-derived copolymers that are deemed less abrasive to paper.
Correction tape erases environmental concerns
In Europe, where fountain pens are very widely used, users have abandoned the old ink erasers whose abrasiveness often results in disaster and have replaced them with correction products that can be applied directly to the writing.
Correction fluids, which made their first appearance on the market around twenty years ago, have increasingly fallen out of favour despite efforts to reduce their toxicity, notably through the introduction of less toxic solvents associated with plasticisers that give better coverage. The bottle of correction fluid, popularised by the Tipp-Ex brand, has since been superseded by metal- or plastic-tipped correction pens. The latest innovation in the field is dry correction achieved through the application of a concealing tape. Originally intended for use in offices, the new technique was taken up by one out of every two users, particularly in schools.
The pen's polystyrene dispenser, polypropylene applicator and polyester film make this dry correction pen the perfect example of an innovative and environmentally-friendly 100% plastic product. In addition to using recycled materials, which most manufacturers have taken up, some of them have opted for using refills, which is certainly one way of retaining users by appealing to their ecological tendencies.
Back to school in an ‘eco-responsible’ manner: Plastics are already top of the class
As regards making sustainable and money-saving decisions, notebooks with plasticised polypropylene covers, which are harder-wearing than cardboard, are in high demand this year as they avoid consumers having to buy protective covers. In the same vein, the polyester backpacks from Eastpack, renowned for their durability and resistance to impacts of all kinds, will be accompanying students for many years. Samsonite has partnered with Disney to create a range of backpacks, satchels, trolley bags and more, bearing children's favourite characters, for all ages: Mickey, Minnie, Violetta, SpiderMan, Star Wars, etc. Made from 100% polyester, they are ergonomic, lightweight, waterproof and hard-wearing!
I am recycled, I used to be a CD case
With stationery brands increasingly focusing on environmentally-friendly ranges of products, many pens, felt-tip pens, markers and highlighters are increasingly refillable and often made with recycled plastics.
One English brand stands out in this regard: its range of RRR (Recycle, Reduce, Respect) pencils is made from recycled CD cases and are printed with the words "I am recycled, I used to be a CD case".