January 23, 2013

Liz Swafford: What to do with used crayons and markers

Are there lots of broken and stubby crayons collecting dust at the bottom of your kid’s pencil box? What about dried up markers? Instead of throwing them out and sending them to the landfill you can recycle them. Crayons can be recycled at home, while markers can be recycled through several mail-in programs here in the U.S.

Crayons are lots of fun for young and old alike. You can color in coloring books or make your own unique work of art using one of the many colored crayons straight from the box. Some of my favorites include the bright Electric Lime, gray Manatee, brilliant Robin Egg Blue and even the pastel Tickle Me Pink. We can extend the life of those cherished leftover crayon pieces with this easy do-it-yourself home recycling project. 

You’ll need all the crayon pieces you can find and an oven safe baking pan with individual slots like a muffin tin. To begin, you’ll need to peel all the paper off the crayons. If needed, break or cut the crayons into smaller pieces with a knife. The smaller the pieces are the quicker they will melt later.

Sort the crayons by color and decide if you want multicolor crayons or solid color ones. For example, you can group all the blue shades in one slot of the muffin tin for a new blue crayon. Or you can mix yellow and green in one slot for a dual colored piece. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill the mold with the crayon pieces as desired.

Besides the muffin tins, you can use ovenproof silicon molds for making cupcakes or chocolate candies which will give you a larger variety of shapes to choose from. Place the tin in the oven and allow the crayons to melt for about 5 to 7 minutes. Keep an eye on the process since the crayons could burn if left in the oven too long.

Remove from the oven and let them cool in the mold. To speed up the process you may want to place the mold in the freezer for about 10 minutes. When cool to the touch, pop out the new recycled crayons and color to your heart’s content. 

Another recycle at home option is a Crayola product called the Crayon Maker that makes it much easier for children to recycle crayons on their own. It’s like an Easy Bake Oven for crayons.

If you’re not feeling too crafty you can mail your used crayons to the National Crayon Recycle Program hosted by Crazy Crayons at www.crazycrayons.com. They’ll sort the crayons and make them into new fun shapes like stars and even tiny earthworms.

Markers, unfortunately, can’t be recycled and reused at home (beyond wetting the tips to try to get more ink out of them). However, they can be mailed in to a recycling program that will use the plastic housing to make new products. We have two mail-in programs available to us through Prang and TerraCycle.

The Prang Power Recycling Program is online at www.dixonrecycle.com. It explains how to collect, package and ship Prang art markers of any size to them via UPS. You’ll need to collect about 7 pounds worth of markers, about 250 of them before you ship them out. Then, you request a shipping label that Prang will mail you to cover the cost of shipping. Finally, you can ship the markers for free at a local UPS store.

Another mail-in option hosted by TerraCycle is called the Writing Instrument Brigade, which will accept markers, permanent markers, highlighters, pens and mechanical pencils. Go to www.terracycle.com and click on the menu item called “Send Your Waste,” then click on “Collection Programs.” At the bottom of the list you’ll find the brigade for writing instruments, click on that and you’ll see the instructions for registering and printing out the pre-paid shipping label.

Just like the Prang Power Recycling Program, the Writing Instrument Brigade requires 7 pounds worth of writing instruments, about 250 items before shipping. However, you can send a variety of brands. It may be best to partner with friends, family or your kids’ classroom to gather enough pieces. After the items are received by TerraCycle they will credit you with points that can go towards a nonprofit or school of your choice.

I have to mention that Crayola doesn’t have an official recycling program, but their markers can be sent to the Writing Instrument Brigade. Instead of having a recycling program, Crayola has committed to making their products with solar power and more recycled and sustainable content. Look for their new markers with a black instead of white tube, which are made from recycled plastic.

Make sure you use your crayons and markers to the very end of their useful life. Then take a few minutes to get them to the right place to be recycled and used again.  


Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Call her at (706) 278-5001 or email lswafford@dwswa.org.

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