Iowa crayon recycling program shows cost of handling unique items
- The Hurstville Interpretive Center in Maquoketa, IA, home to the Jackson County conservation department, has been attracting attention for its crayon recycling efforts in recent months, as reported by WQAD.
- Students and residents have become engaged in the program, bringing in an estimated 200 pounds of crayons over the past six weeks. Though the cost of shipping these crayons to a company called Crazy Crayons (about $19 per box) is too high for them to continue. They plan to stop the program in June unless enough donations are received.
- Colorado-based Crazy Crayons recycles the old writing utensils into new products for schools and nonprofits. The company estimates that more than 12 million crayons are manufactured each day, though minimal recycling options are available for them.
Compared to the many, many tons of other refuse and recyclables that the industry deals with every year, crayons may seem like a minor element. According to another collection program, The Crayon Initiative, broken crayons account for about 500,000 pounds of landfill material year. Yet in the quest for "zero waste" and higher diversion rates any material helps and the non-biodegradable wax inside of the classic children's items has made them a popular target.
Like any material, if crayon stubs can be collected separately from schools, hospitals and restaurants there is a market for them. In addition to Crazy Crayons and The Crayon Initiative, another group called The Crayon Collection also makes use of the materials. TerraCycle does as well, accepting crayons in its "Art Supplies Zero Waste Box." Though as highlighted by the costs of shipping multiple $19 boxes from Iowa, let alone the $117 box for TerraCycle, collecting unique waste streams is rarely cheap.
Special collection programs now exist for batteries, gum, cigarette butts, car seats and much more. While certain materials need to be separated for safety reasons, there are some in the industry that argue it's more efficient from an environmental and economic standpoint to process everything together after extracting more common recyclables.
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