Much and all as I love the convenience of bic pens and their sidekicks, the razors and lighters, I do have to wonder how much better off the world would be if we didn’t have throwaway items like this. Or maybe I’m just trying to get off the guilt trip I feel when I go to a bookshop, as I did today, and see dozens of titles like: 20 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet, 365 Ways to Save the Earth, and so on.
Bic pens, as I recall, were amongst the first things to be regarded as disposable. When I was first at school, we used pencils in the younger classes, and then graduated to fountain pens – with even a period of using nib pens that had to be dipped in inkwells. Man, that seems ancient! (I actually flicked my fountain pen at the boy in front of me when he annoyed me once, and left ink all over the back of his shirt.)
I can’t remember now whether ballpoint pens made it into school while I was there – I suspect they were still regarded as instruments that would turn our pristine writing into scribble – and they did. But certainly it was in the time when I was first at work that they came in in full force. And began to be thrown away in their thousands. For a time, ballpoint pens had replaceable cartridges, and there were some stylish pens around that could be refilled. But not for long. Along came Mr Bic and that was that. Billions of ballpoint pens must have made their way to the refuse dumps over the decades, billions of bits of plastic and tiny springs, and inner bits. Bic’s promoting of the throwaway product was certainly innovative, but it may also have been disastrous, encouraging manufacturers to get us to throw away almost everything