Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pilot Neox-Eno BegreeN Leads

Pilot Neox-Eno BegreeN Leads

A couple of years ago I learned of an announcement by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and Tombow Pencil that together they had developed recycled mechanical pencil leads made from the worn out generator brushes of TEPCO’s power plants. Generator brushes are made from high purity graphite, and worn ones are normally sent to the local dump. However, in this new recycling process they will instead be crushed to powder and reformed as mechanical pencil leads. Something like 300kg a year of brushes are normally replaced, apparently enough to make about 24 million sticks of refill lead. Well, heck of an idea, and a great marketing point I’m sure, but a bit debatable if this would make any difference to the global environment. Some other marketing ploys also spring to mind - your local nuclear power plant is chock full of graphite rods, they’re one of the things keeping it from going “kaboom” - so lots of possibilities there for making recycled 'glow in the dark' pencil leads, etc. I suppose these last few sentences have now got me on some CIA database.

Anyway, back to the point at hand. When my Pilot Rexgrip BegreeN mechanical pencil arrived, there were a couple of containers of BegreeN refill leads with it. To be honest, I was actually looking forward to the BegreeN leads more than I was to the Rexgrip pencil itself.

So, here they are, Pilot Neox-Eno BegreeN Leads 0.5mm HB grade. 100% recycled.
Well that’s when I started thinking. 100% Recycled? Initially I was thinking they were made from recycled graphite, like the TEPCO-Tombow venture. But the Neox-Eno label on them raised my suspicions – were these really just ordinary Pilot leads and it was the container that was recycled? So, time to ask Pilot for the answer – are the leads recycled, or the container, or both? Well, the answer is that it’s the container. The container is 100% recycled, the leads are just ordinary Pilot leads. They have now updated their website to change the claim from 100% Recycled to 98.1% Recycled, meaning that 1.9% of the weight of a container full of leads is the leads (0% recycled themselves) and 98.1% of the weight is the container, which itself is 100% recycled. Well, call me a pedantic picky sort of guy, but quite frankly I think the correct statement is 0% recycled. The leads are the product and the container is packaging, so the product is 0% recycled. They don’t make any statement or calculation about the recycled status of the boxes they supply their other BegreeN products in, so why should it be different for leads? In a purist view, I think a little container for a dozen leads is surely a huge waste, an example of excessive packaging – you could get 50+ leads in the BegreeN container, thus reducing plastic use, and overall that would probably be more “green” than their current product offering. Maybe a biodegradable cardboard container from unbleached pulp? Lots of possibilities.

OK, no need to go overboard here, this is just pencil leads, utterly insignificant in the big picture of the state of the world environment. But still, it does show how things are open to interpretation. So, good on Pilot for wanting to improve their environmental impact, but you still need to keep your eyes open when it comes to the claims people make about their products.

Pilot BegreeN leads – only available in HB grade and 0.5mm, to suit the Rexgrip BegreeN mechanical pencil.

Since these BegreeN leads aren’t any different from normal leads I’m not actually reviewing them as part of this particular post, that’s something for the future.

Disclaimer: Like my Pilot Rexgrip BegreeN mechanical pencil, the BegreeN leads were given to me free of charge by Cult Pens in the UK.


Anonymous said...

I just got a pack of these leads and I must say I really like them. I have found Pilot lead grade HB is nearly the same as the nano-dia and AIN/STEIN 2B!! The Pilot 2B are way too soft for me to use for my daily writing purposes, further backing up my findings that the HB is equal to 2B in other brands. I am really enjoying using these and I don't care if the lead is recycled or not because that's just graphite and clay. I much prefer the plastic case is recycled so I'm happy about that.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dave,
This is the CIA Agent 002. May we know how you got information about graphite rods in the US nuclear plant?. We're tracking your site for the past 10 years. Any confidential data on your blog site could get you arrested.
-CIA HQ, United States of America ;)