Shining a Light on Highlighter Recycling: Can You Recycle Those Bright Markers?

December 31, 2021 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: Recycling and reducing waste are important practices for conserving resources and minimizing the impact of waste on the environment. Highlighters, which consist of a plastic barrel, ink reservoir, and felt tip, can be challenging to recycle due to their complex composition. However, there are options available such as the TerraCycle marker recycling program and office supply stores’ recycling programs. It is advisable to search for recycling options near you using online search engines or by contacting local recycling centers. Alternatively, old highlighters can be creatively reused or donated to schools or organizations. Proper disposal methods should be followed for non-recyclable highlighters. It is important to check with local hazardous waste facilities or refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for safe disposal. While pens can often be recycled, highlighters pose challenges in recycling. Sharpie highlighters, made of plastic and containing ink, can be recycled through specific recycling initiatives. By taking these steps, we can contribute to reducing waste and preserving the environment.

Can You Recycle Highlighters?

I. Importance of recycling and reducing waste

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, recycling and reducing waste have become essential practices. By recycling, we can conserve resources, reduce pollution, and minimize the impact of waste on our planet. It is important to understand the recycling options available for various items to ensure that we are making informed choices. One common item that raises questions about its recyclability is the highlighter.

II. Understanding Highlighters

A. Composition of highlighters

To understand the recyclability of highlighters, we need to delve into their composition. Highlighters typically consist of three main components: a plastic barrel, an ink reservoir, and a felt tip. The plastic barrel is often made of a type of plastic called polypropylene, which is known for its durability and resistance to chemicals. The ink reservoir contains a fluorescent ink that is typically water-based.

B. Different types of highlighters available in the market

Highlighters come in various types, including traditional liquid highlighters, gel highlighters, and dry highlighters. Traditional liquid highlighters are the most common type, featuring a liquid ink that is applied through a felt tip. Gel highlighters, on the other hand, use a gel-based ink that is similar to a solid crayon. Dry highlighters, also known as pencil highlighters, contain a waxy substance that is applied to the paper using a pencil-like tip. The different types of highlighters may have slightly different compositions, which can affect their recyclability.

III. Highlighter Recycling Process

A. Challenges in recycling highlighters

Recycling highlighters can be challenging due to their complex composition. The combination of plastic and ink makes it difficult to separate and recycle the components efficiently. Additionally, the small size of highlighters makes them prone to getting lost or mixed with other waste, further complicating the recycling process.

B. Common recycling methods for highlighters

1. TerraCycle marker recycling program

One popular option for recycling highlighters is the TerraCycle marker recycling program. TerraCycle is a company that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle items. They offer a free program that allows individuals and organizations to send in their used markers, including highlighters, for recycling. The markers are collected, sorted, and processed to recover any recyclable materials.

2. Office supply stores’ recycling programs

Many office supply stores have their own recycling programs for writing instruments, including highlighters. They accept used highlighters and other writing instruments and ensure that they are recycled or disposed of properly. Some stores even offer incentives, such as discounts on new writing instruments, for participating in their recycling programs.

3. Local recycling centers

Local recycling centers may also accept highlighters for recycling, although this can vary depending on the specific guidelines of each center. It is advisable to check with your local recycling center to see if they accept highlighters or if they have any specific requirements for recycling them.

IV. Where to Recycle Highlighters

A. Searching for recycling options near you

1. Using online search engines

An easy way to find recycling options for highlighters is by using online search engines. Simply search for “highlighter recycling near me” or “writing instrument recycling near me” to find local recycling centers or programs that accept highlighters.

2. Contacting local recycling centers

If you are unable to find information online, you can contact your local recycling centers directly. They will be able to provide you with information on whether they accept highlighters for recycling and any specific guidelines you need to follow.

3. Checking with office supply stores

Office supply stores often have recycling programs in place for writing instruments. Reach out to stores in your area and inquire about their recycling options for highlighters. They may also be able to provide you with alternative solutions if they do not offer recycling services themselves.

V. Alternatives to Recycling Highlighters

A. Reusing old highlighters

1. Creative DIY projects

If your highlighters are still in good condition but are no longer functional, you can find creative ways to reuse them. For example, you can use the barrel of the highlighter as a container for small items like paperclips or beads. Alternatively, you can remove the ink reservoir and use the barrel as a colorful pen holder. Let your imagination guide you in finding new uses for old highlighters.

2. Donating to schools or organizations

Another option is to donate your unused or lightly used highlighters to schools or organizations that may find them useful. Many educational institutions or community centers are often in need of supplies and will appreciate your donation.

B. Proper disposal methods for non-recyclable highlighters

1. Checking local hazardous waste facilities

If your highlighters cannot be recycled and are considered hazardous waste due to the chemicals they contain, it is important to dispose of them properly. Check with your local hazardous waste facilities to find out if they accept highlighters and what their guidelines are for disposal.

2. Following manufacturer’s instructions

When in doubt, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on how to dispose of your highlighters properly. They may provide specific guidance or recommend certain methods for safe disposal.

VI. Frequently Asked Questions

A. What can I do with old highlighters?

Old highlighters can be reused creatively, donated to schools or organizations, or properly disposed of if they cannot be recycled.

B. Are pens and highlighters recyclable?

While highlighters typically pose challenges in recycling, pens can often be recycled. It is important to check with local recycling centers or programs to determine the specific guidelines for recycling pens and highlighters in your area.

C. Are you supposed to recycle markers?

Markers can be recycled, but it is important to follow the guidelines provided by local recycling centers or programs to ensure proper recycling practices.

D. Are Sharpie highlighters recyclable?

Sharpie highlighters are made of plastic and contain ink, making them challenging to recycle. However, through programs like TerraCycle or specific recycling initiatives, it may be possible to recycle Sharpie highlighters.

VII. Conclusion

In conclusion, highlighters can be recycled, but the process can be challenging due to their complex composition. However, there are options available, such as the TerraCycle marker recycling program and office supply stores’ recycling programs. It is important to research and find recycling options near you to ensure that your highlighters are disposed of properly. Additionally, there are alternatives to recycling, such as reusing old highlighters or donating them to schools or organizations. By taking these steps, we can contribute to reducing waste and preserving our environment.

Question: What can I do with old highlighter?
Answer: Old highlighters can be repurposed for art projects or used as a makeshift paintbrush.

Question: Are pens and highlighters recyclable?
Answer: Yes, pens and highlighters are recyclable. However, it is recommended to check with your local recycling facility for specific guidelines.

Question: Are you supposed to recycle markers?
Answer: Some markers can be recycled, but it depends on the type and brand. It is best to check with your local recycling facility for proper disposal methods.

Question: Are Sharpie highlighters recyclable?
Answer: Sharpie highlighters are not typically recyclable due to their plastic components. It is recommended to dispose of them in regular waste.


About the author 

Jordan Miller

Hi there, I'm Jordan! I graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Environmental Policy, but my real education has been in the field, turning theory into practice. My days are filled with implementing sustainable solutions and teaching communities how to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle. I believe small changes can make a big impact, and I'm here to guide you through every step of going green.