Paper Mate’s Green Sins

A couple of years ago, Paper Mate introduced a “biodegradable pen”. This pen was advertised as being able to be put into the ground and ‘by next year” it’ll have decomposed. What they don’t mention is that not all of the pen is biodegradable. The second ad clearly shows that only the husk of the pen is degradable. That still doesn’t account for the plastic inside, leftover ink, the grip, or spring.


The first ad talks about the pen by comparing it to the standard Paper Mate pen. The ad then goes on to take advantage of the general public’s lack of knowledge and doesn’t explain how or why this pen is able to degrade. It even throws in some fancy words and phrases like “soil, water, and microorganisms as if the general public has any knowledge on how materials biodegrade. Bypassing that helpful information, they go on to talk about the pens “swiss-engineered ink” (because that’s relevant) and how the pen is “good value”. For the cherry on top, the ad informs viewers that they can take in their old pens to donate them towards becoming part of the “Terracycle program” (which I wasn’t even sure what that was) to be turned into a new product. Again, they skirt around the details. Of course this is just a one minute ad, but they could have covered the information more thoroughly without having a back and forth conversation between pens and also directing interested consumers to a website to learn more.

Green Washing Sins:

  1. Hidden Trade-off: Don’t expressly tell you that not all of the pen is biodegradable.
  2. No Proof: They don’t show the process at all in real pictures; they only show it in rendered images.
  3. Vagueness: Do not detail the processes.
  4. Lesser of two-evils: The second ad still shows you trashing parts of the pen, but now you can throw some of it on the ground and it’ll be fine.

Kris Kowalk


4 thoughts on “Paper Mate’s Green Sins

  1. Very interesting. I learned from this post good job! Its easy to be tricked! Hopefully we can educate the public.


  2. Commercial are quite expensive that is why companies do not want to gives us important information regarding their products, mostly because the more we know about the product the more skeptical we will be, and probably we will end up not buying it.

    Tsvetelina Georgiev


  3. I found this very interesting. When I read the title of your blog I couldn’t imagine how a pen could be biodegradable. Turns out, it really isn’t that biodegradable after all. It is unbelievable how grand the claims by companies can be and people will just buy into it. It is becoming increasingly challenging to be an informed consumer because of all of the research that you would have to before you can even make a decision about what pens to buy for school.

    Amanda Vacca


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