Making Pencil Lead from Generator Brushes

pencil_lead.jpgHere’s another great example of taking one industry’s trash and turning it into a raw material for another. Tokyo Electric Power happens to have a pile of worn-out graphite “brushes” from their generators. Tombow Pencil Co makes pencils. Pencil “lead” is actually graphite, therefore a deal is made. With a few adjustments to the method that the power company crushes its brushes, decent quality pencil lead can be produces. Read more on JFS.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

8 responses

  1. Making Pencil Lead from Generator Brushes

    Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and Tombow Pencil recently announced that they have jointly developed mechanical pencil “leads” recycled from generator brushes used in TEPCO’s thermal power plants. Generator brushes are made from highly pure graphite (ove…

  2. I have to wonder why they don’t adopt proper sustainability protocol. They should process worn-out brushes back into new brushes. The pencil lead approach is really just down-cycling, it doesn’t prevent this commodity from going to landfill… only postpones it.

  3. It depends on the graphite composition. Graphite to Graphite could be considered an upcycle, or high-quality to high-quality recycle. Now I’d agree with you if this graphite when to make a basketball hoop.

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