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Writing Instrument Brigade

Learn how to "upcycle" your defunct writing instruments and help the campus become zero waste by 2020.


In partnership with TerraCycle and OfficeMax, Integrated Procure-to-Pay Solutions has initiated a new program to divert defunct writing instruments from the campus waste stream. With the cooperation of Mail Services, the campus can easily and efficiently upcycle their writing instruments through Intercampus Mail. The writing instruments will be consolidated through Mail Services and sent to TerraCycle, where they will be upcycled and made into fun and innovative products. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of writing instruments being sent to landfills, and instead give those raw materials a second life as upcycled products.

In the 2011-2012 Fiscal year, Participating Departments at UCSD diverted over 6,000 writing instruments from local landfills.

In FY 2012-2013: the campus diverted over 4,500 writing instruments.

FY 2013-2014: the campus diverted over 7,000 writing instruments. This success was largely due to the program's partnership with Mail services, beginning in November 2013.

FY 2014-2015: the campus diverted over 11,175 writing instruments. High School Pilot Battalian Program launched at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, CA.

As of November 2016: the campus has diverted over 36,517 used writing instruments. If laid out end-to-end, that would be nearly 3 ½ miles of used writing instruments!  

granite hills high school

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How the Brigade Works

  1. Drop off your writing instruments with the daily mail. Simply place them into an Intercampus Mail envelope labeled "used pens"
  2. UCSD Mail Services will consolidate the writing instruments into one large shipment to TerraCycle, where they will be upcycled into park benches, storage bins, and other new products.
  3. Students:The Writing Instruments Brigade is available to students via drop-off bins located in the Libraries and in the Sustainability Resource Center, adjacent to Price Center Theater. Pictured below: An example of a collection bin located in the libraries.


What materials are accepted?

Terracycle accepts all brands and all parts of writing instruments, including:

  • Pens & Pen Caps
  • Mechanical Pencils
  • Markers
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Highlighters
  • Wooden Pencils
  • White Out Pens


  • Contact Sustainable Procurement to join the brigade mailing list. Get more information about how the brigade works, and receive updates about UCSD's progress.
  • Place your collection bin(s) in high traffic areas, where people are more likely to notice them. For example, placing a bin nearby a garbage can may encourage reconsideration of one's disposal options.
  • Spread the word! Make sure your colleagues know about the brigade. The better publicized it is, the more effective it will be in reducing our waste stream.

Participating Departments and Contacts

Learn More

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