Sharpie Permanent Marker

overall rating:



Kristen Saban
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The Sharpie brand has made a name for itself in the stationery world. Sharpie products can be found anywhere—from homes to classrooms to offices. Even the word “Sharpie” itself is nowadays used synonymously with “permanent marker,” though the brand manufactures other products such as highlighters as well. The Sharpie Permanent Marker is durable, versatile, and as its name suggests, permanent. Despite the name recognition and positive qualities of this pen, however, the Sharpie brand and its parent company Newell Brands are sorely lacking in terms of sustainability efforts. There is very little evidence that Sharpie is making a serious attempt at adopting more sustainable practices. Overall, there is little push for sustainability and little transparency in the brand’s operations. 

What it's made of:


The Sharpie Permanent Marker is comprised of the pen body, ink, ink reservoir, felt tip, and cap. On the Sharpie website, there is very little information on what each of these subcomponents are made of. The pen body and cap are made of plastic, which has a huge carbon emission footprint during the manufacturing process. Although there’s little information available for Sharpie specifically, many marker felt tips are made of synthetic fibers such as polyester. These synthetic fibers are often derived from fossil fuels, further contributing to Sharpie’s carbon emissions. Further, these synthetic fibers are non-biodegradable. Some potential ingredients of the ink, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, have been shown to be toxic to aquatic species. The combination of these components of the marker means that it is not able to be recycled, so every dried-up Sharpie marker will wind up in a landfill.

Beyond the marker itself, the product is sold with packaging made of cardboard and plastic. If these paper and plastic components are recyclable, it’s not indicated anywhere on the packaging. At an absolute bare minimum, I would strongly urge the Sharpie brand and their parent company to first be more transparent about what their products are made of and where these materials are sourced. Furthermore, however, I believe that the Sharpie brand should swap many of their plastic and synthetic materials to more sustainable alternatives. For example, they could offer a refillable version of the pen (or better yet make all of their pens refillable) to lessen their landfill contribution. Finally, Sharpie should at the very least invest in recycled cardboard and plastic materials for their packaging, or use all recyclable materials in their packaging. 

How it's made:


There is very little information available about how exactly Sharpie products are manufactured. A note on the multi-pack of the permanent markers claims that the product is “assembled in the US,” though this is still a very ambiguous claim. The pen may be assembled in the US where labor laws are relatively developed, but there is no information on where the subcomponents are being manufactured. Overall, the lack of transparency about the production and manufacturing processes of Sharpie markers is highly concerning. 

Who makes it:


The Sharpie brand and their parent company, Newell Brands, are both severely lacking in terms of sustainability goals. There is no mention of sustainability or the environment at all on Sharpie’s website. Newell Brands has a small section on their website explaining their sustainability goals, but the goals leave much to be desired. Some of these goals include reducing energy usage by 25%, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, and switching to 100% recycled paper sources for packaging. In my opinion, these goals are not nearly aggressive enough considering the severity of the current climate crisis. These goals are especially laughable when compared to those of comparable or even larger large corporations like Unilever or General Mills. While the sustainability efforts of these corporations are far from perfect, they’ve at least dedicated more than just a few baseless bullet points to describing them.

Newell Brands are not very concerned with sustainability at all. There is no available information on what their products are made of, where the materials are being sourced and manufactured, or workers conditions or rights. Furthermore, there is not even a mention of sustainability on Sharpie’s website, and the only mention of sustainability on Newell Brands’ website boils down to only a few lackluster bullet points. From this, it’s clear that sustainability is of least concern for this company. Sharpie’s marker may be permanent, but if they continue to ignore the state of our climate, our planet may not be.