Can Pencil Shavings Be Recycled?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: June 12, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

With over 14 billion pencils used worldwide every year, there’s no question about how essential pencils are for education and writing in general.

But what happens to all the pencil shavings that are produced and more importantly, can they be recycled?

Pencil shavings are usually too small in number to justify the cost of recycling. Also, pencils are not made purely from wood but have other substances, so it is difficult to separate only the wood for commercial recycling.

Let’s delve into the details of whether pencil shavings can and should be recycled or not, and ways to reuse them if you don’t want to throw them away.

Can pencil shavings be recycled?

You might be thinking that since pencils are made of wood, it’s probably okay to put shavings or stubs into the recycling.

However, that’s not the case here.

Pencil shavings cannot be put in the recycling bin because pencils are made from other materials apart from wood.

The core is made from graphite, the wood covering comes mostly from cedar trees and is coated with paint or plastic, and there is usually an eraser and ferrule (the metal part that holds the eraser) at the end.

Another reason you should not put pencil shavings in the recycling bin is that the wood used for making pencils is chemically processed and not pure, making it unsuitable.

This is why most recycling companies do not accept pencil shavings in the recycling and recommend putting them in the waste bin instead.

If you’re worried about throwing pencil shavings away because they would end up in a landfill and contribute to environmental pollution, there are ways to recycle and reuse them at home.

Check out this video for fun DIY craft activities you or your kids could do with pencil shavings!

Can pencil shavings be composted?

Yes! If you have collected a large number of pencil shavings and are hesitant about throwing them in the trash, you could simply add them to your compost pile along with the usual fruit and vegetable peels.

Pencil shavings are actually a great way to add carbon to your compost mixture, which is needed by the microorganisms to break down the organic material.

Other than compost, pencil shavings can be used in multiple ways to add a little greenery to your garden.

You can use them to make mulch and topsoil because they help retain much-needed moisture.

Pencil shavings can also be used as a pest deterrent because most pencils are made of cedarwood, which helps keep annoying insects away.

Can pencil shavings be composted?

How to recycle pencil shavings

If you want to recycle pencil shavings at home, here are some easy ways to do it:

  • Use them for arts and craft projects. This can be a great project for school kids, so keep this in mind for future activities if you are an art teacher!
  • Use them in the garden by making compost, mulch, or topsoil with them. Alternatively, sprinkle some pencil shavings around your garden to keep pests away.
  • Pencil shavings can also be used as bedding material for small furry pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and gerbils!
  • Use them as an alternative to firelighter liquid as fuel to start fires or keep them going.

Can mechanical pencils be recycled? 

Mechanical pencils are either made from plastic or metal. Both these substances are recyclable, but you will find very few recycling companies that accept mechanical pencils.

This is because they are usually few in number and it’s difficult to separate out the useful materials for proper recycling.

Although mechanical pencils are not recyclable, they can be reused repeatedly by simply refilling their leads.

This makes them a better alternative to wood pencils as this means fewer trees are cut down to produce pencils.

A good quality mechanical pencil should last a long time and reduce the amount of waste produced.

Unfortunately, if you break your mechanical pencil or it becomes unusable, you have no choice but to throw it away.

Even though most mechanical pencils are made of unrecyclable material, you should examine the label to find out for sure.

We also recommend checking with your local recycling company to find out if they accept pencils for recycling or not.


Pencil shavings and stubs cannot be put in the recycling bin because they are usually small in quantity and it is hard to separate the wood from other materials used, such as the plastic or paint coating the pencil.

Another reason is that the wood used in pencils goes through a lot of chemical processing, making it unsuitable for recycling.

Although you can’t put pencil shavings in the recycling bin, there are several ways you can recycle and reuse them at home.

These include doing fun little art projects, using them in compost and mulch, making pets’ bedding with them and much more.

You can also buy a mechanical pencil and say goodbye to the hassle of pencil shavings forever!

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