As part of a stationery overhaul, Mediolana recently acquired a pair of intriguing pens: two novel Paper Mate FlexGrip Ultras. The distinguishing element in these Mexico-manufactured writing instruments – their darker body hues aside – is that they are made of 55% recycled materials. Given that the FlexGrip Ultra has long been a preferred pen of our Creative Director & CSO Asad Yawar, we were greatly looking forward to seeing how it performed compared to its more waste-intensive counterpart.
The quality of consumer goods with an ecological slant is something that has long perturbed us; far too often, the purchaser is forced to choose between an ecologically sensitive product and an effective one. This trend has slowed and perhaps even reversed in recent years – Ecover washing-up liquid and the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid come to mind when recalling outstanding, environmentally-exemplary articles of the (post-)capitalist system – but basic trade-offs are still far too common. All-electric cars are only just transcending severe distance limitations, ecological cleaners are generally only partially effective on limescale, and in large sections of the economy (think cameras or computers) there are few if any obviously green choices on offer. Even in items as simple as DVD cases, environmentally-friendly options are known to have distinct disadvantages in terms of aesthetics and odour.
The FlexGrip Ultra 55% does better than most: the smooth feel of the rubberised body is familiar, and the floating ball seems to function well enough. Although the glaze of the plastic and the tint of the pen body scream ‘recycled’, the smoothness of the 1.0M nib is likely to count for most things in the final analysis – but the former factors do act as a reminder that there is plenty of work to be done in products partially constituted of pre-used materials to make them as desirable as their ecologically inferior equivalents; this represents a serious challenge for the circular economy.