A Writing Problem

Bindu Gopinath

About two months ago, when students of the Government Oriental Higher Secondary School at Edathanattukara in Palakkad began preparing ground for a medicinal plant garden, they found scores of used plastic pens strewn around.

Vipin C.G., a chemistry teacher who noticed the pens, wanted to highlight the problem of plastic waste to the children. He asked the students to collect pens discarded in the school’s three acre campus and offered a prize to the class that would find the maximum pens.

School authorities were shocked to see what the children gathered: in just two months, 9,325 plastic pens were collected from the campus. Vipin estimates that the school’s 2,500 students could be throwing out at least 100,000 pens every year. Imagine the number of such pens dumped by students across the state and the impact on environment from plastic waste.


"We don’t know what to do with these pens now," Vipin said over telephone. "The children regret about the plastic waste they were unknowingly creating, but you don’t have much other options either."

Most of the shops have stopped selling refill cartridges for cheap plastic pens. Children are reluctant to use ink pens because they are inconvenient. The school, which is located near the buffer zone of the Silent Valley National Park, is now planning to encourage the use of pens made of paper. Some 30 children have already been trained to make paper pens, Vipin says.