Once a darling of students,
pens are now only plastic waste, writes Nikhil
Collecting pens no longer finds favour with the young
by many students once upon a time, pens are now quickly
turning into plastic waste as the thrift practice of refilling
them is dying a slow death. A far cry from the early 1990s, when
writing instruments, in their earlier avatar of fountain pens,
had to be recharged from an ink bottle frequently, most of the
users now end up throwing away branded pens as they avoid
refilling at Rs 3 to buy a new one for as low as Rs 5.
use-and-throw pens are also much in demand with dirt-cheap
prices beginning from Rs 2. "We have noticed that 80 per
cent of Indian consumers buy pens worth below Rs 10. And since
these pens are cheap, these die well before its time,"
Deepak Jalan, managing director of Linc Pen & Plastics Ltd,
One of the top
three players in the organised writing instrument industry in
the country, Linc struggles to sell only 30 refills against
every 100 pens.
therefore, be presumed that roughly 70 per cent of such pens get
discarded off early," he says.
life a decade earlier, even the nondescript of pens were the
prized possession of many a students, for whom holding their
favourite fountain pen between their fingers used to be a
memorable experience reflecting timeless elegance,
personalisation and sentimentality.
Nikita Bhatt, a
33-year-old advertising professional from Mumbai, who has
preserved her pen collection from her student days, boasts of
precious memories attached to the writing instruments.
"I had an
emotional attachment with my pens. These days, people might
throw the pen away when it needs a refill, but I would love
refilling the barrel of my favourite fountain pen even while
writing examinations," she recalls.
Dave Mukherji, dean of the arts and aesthetics department of
Jawaharlal Nehru University at New Delhi, regrets that the
relationship between the pen and the student has seen a decline
in the last few years.
"In a way,
pens are almost fading away. The attachment is no more there. It
is vanishing fast as the pen has become a disposable object. But
once it used to be a precious object while holding it in between
your fingers," she says adding that the choice of pens also
reflects upon the quality of writing.
feel that if you are not serious about the pen you use, you are
also not serious about writing. People have become very casual
about words and language, similar to their attitude towards
pens," the professor says.
sentiments, school teacher Nandini Guha says, "Gadgets like
Apple’s iPad, latest cell phone s and laptops catch the fancy
of all students immediately. Who talks of the small little old
technology and user-friendly features, a new generation of pens
— ball pens, fibre-tips, gel pens and roller balls — were
introduced by brands like Luxor, Linc, Reynolds, Cello and
Rotomac late last century.
Marred by the
onset of digitalisation and the highly fragmented nature of the
Rs 3000 crore writing instrument industry in India, branded pens
quickly dropped their prices to match those from the unorganised
market for fountain pens has become very limited now. The new
generation buys things which are modern, fast, cheap and without
any hassles," says Bipin Sanghvi, president of the Bombay
Fountain Pen Manufacturers and Traders Association.
manufacturer Flair’s director Vimalchand Rathore justifies the
new trend of quick disposal of pens. "When we can produce
and sell them for cheap, then why should not the people buy it?
This is how they get new products each time with new colour and
designs. Students also enjoy buying new pens," says the
With a huge
number of pens being discarded off each year, a rising concern
is its contribution to the plastic waste and an absence of
recycling methods. Plastic granules, an unavoidable raw material
for making the shells of most pens, are non-biodegradable.
"This is a
significant problem as plastic waste is increasing by the day.
There is no check on the manufacturers as to how much toxic is
the plastic they use," says environment activist Ravi
Agarwal of Toxics Link.
Jalan opines that the problem can be solved if students revive
the age-old practice of refilling. "The problem can be
solved if consumers go back to the good old days of refilling
since an ordinary refill contains at least five times less
plastic than a pen," he says.
The Kolkata-based company had
recently launched a new corporate social responsibility
initiative aiming at decreasing the usage of environmentally
harmful plastics. — PTI