02 – Raw Materials

There are basically five parts to a Bic Pen. The cap, barrel, and ink tube are made of plastic, while the ballpoint and tip are made of metals.

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POLYSTYRENE BARREL

The barrel of the pen is made of polystyrene, a cheap, mass produced plastic. The production of polystyrene releases chlorofluorocarbons (Schwarz, Leisewitz 1999) into the environment- gases that have roughly 1200 times the greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide. In addition to being cheap, polystyrene also has the benefit of being clear so a user can see how much ink remains in the pen.

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POLYPROPYLENE CAP & TUBE

The ink tube and cap are made of polypropylene, a slightly more environmentally friendly plastic that can be recycled. It is chosen for its durability and impact resistance. While Polystyrene is prone to brittle cracking, the PP cap can prevent it from breaking when dropped or impacted. LyondellBassell Industries in the Netherlands is the worlds biggest producer of Polypropylene (Plastics News 2009).

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BRASS TIP

The tip is made of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. Copper is one of the worlds most mined minerals and its extraction is known for causing great ecological stress. Open pit mining techniques are popular and can affect water tables and leach acidic mining chemicals into aquifers.

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TUNGSTEN CARBIDE BALLPOINT

Finally, the ballpoint is made of tungsten carbide- a super strong material used for industrial drill bits and armor piercing ammunition. The biggest producers of tungsten are China, Russia and Bolivia (Brown et al, 2013). It is considered a conflict mineral as it has fueled armed disputes in the Dem Rep of Congo where more than 50% of mines are occupied by militarized groups (Polgren, 2008)

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