By Joline Hall, VIC Summer Naturalist
For most American families, the simple crayon is a staple item in kids’ bedrooms, playrooms, and throughout the house. Often, children learn to write their first “ABC” using a crayon of some kind. Crayons are regulars of elementary art classrooms and are a very recognizable item. Some would consider them a symbol of childhood. Chances are, if you were a child within the last century, you have used a crayon.
Unfortunately, as children grow up and graduate to colored pencils, pens, and markers, crayons are often left broken, forgotten about, and eventually, make their way to the garbage. During our Kids’ BioFest, we discovered that an approximated 45,000 to 75,000 pounds of crayons end up in landfills around the country annually. That weighs as much as 3-6 elephants!
Why does this matter, you may ask?
Crayons are made from paraffin wax which is a byproduct of petroleum or crude oil. This substance is not biodegradable. Your old crayons are still fully intact in a landfill somewhere, as it takes a crayon hundreds of years to decompose. This means the amount of time you spend using your crayon is barely a fraction of its lifespan. Further, the use of petroleum-based products causes habitat destruction due to the process it takes to extract the oil. This is a sad fact, as old crayons can be upcycled into many different products such as brand-new crayons and candles, which would decrease the demand for petroleum. Despite the ability to use old crayons to create new ones, more than 12 million new crayons are produced each day in the United States only.
Fortunately, you can help reduce the waste by upcycling your old crayons into new ones following the steps below or donating your unused, broken crayons to the VIC where we will upcycle them to be donated to local schools and organizations. Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of our Upcycling Earth Day Fest coming this spring, where we will further explore the importance of upcycling.
1) Preheat your oven to 200◦ F
2) Remove the wrappers of the crayons you wish to upcycle
3) Break desired crayons into small pieces and place them into an old muffin pan (dedicating an old pan to crayon upcycling is best, as there will be some leftover wax in the pan)
4) Fill muffin cups about half-way with broken crayons (no grease or liners required)
5) Place muffin pan into the oven until the crayon pieces have melted (between 10-15 minutes)
6) Being careful not to spill the hot wax, remove your muffin pan from the oven
7) Give muffin cups a stir with a toothpick or dedicated reusable utensil
8) Place muffin pan in a freezer or fridge to cool quickly, or a clear counter space.
9) When the new crayons have hardened, remove them from the pan and color!