Yes. You’ve read that right — and no, we are not crazy.
A Denmark-based startup called Sprout World has been trying to make something out of the millions — if not billions — of pencils that are just being thrown in the trash each year — never to be seen again, never to be used again.
“There are 15 billion pencils made annually, and three million of those just in the United States. That’s a lot of pencil stubs thrown away,” said Sprout World CEO Michael Stausholm in an interview with CNN.
Stausholm and his team are hoping to create something significant out of the pencils being thrown out by people each year by making a ‘dying’ product “literally giving life to a new product.”
Sprout World came up with pencils that can be planted and grown into flowering plants, herbs, or vegetables once their owners are done using them.
The pencils were developed by a small group of students at MIT back in 2012.
“At the time, I was living in Denmark and working a lot with sustainable companies,” said Stausholm. “But sustainability is hard to illustrate to consumers. I was searching for a product that could easily do that.”
Stausholm came across the pencil plant idea while it was on a Kickstarter campaign and decided to partner with the MIT students and started selling the product in Denmark. In just a year’s time, the group was able to sell 70,000 of the pencil plants.
The wooden pencils are equipped with biodegradable capsules containing small mixtures of peat and seeds, located at the part where an eraser would be in typical pencils.
Once the owners of the pencils decide they no longer need the instrument for writing, they can plant the pencils with the capsule end down in the dirt, using the stub end of the pencils as markers. As the pencil plants are watered down, the capsule dissolves and the seeds eventually grow into normal plants.
The pencil plant products don’t come cheap, however. A pack of eight of the Sprout World pencils sells for $19.99, but Stousholm is hopeful that they can eventually bring that price down.
The Sprout World CEO is keen on saving the planet, but he is aware that selling their products alone isn’t going to do the job. He said:
“We know we can’t save the planet just with our products. Our mission is to at least educate people on how to be more conscious in what they buy and look for products that are reusable.”