Turn Your Kid’s Markers Into Gasoline
September 8, 2013

Turn Your Kid’s Markers Into Gasoline

Well, not gasoline exactly. Crayola is spearheading a new effort for their old, dried-up markers to be recycled and turned into clean-burning diesel fuel.

With the cost of oil constantly on the rise and the desire for alternative energy relentlessly growing, innovative thinkers are popping up like wild flowers.

Enter Crayola. According to Fox News, “The company makes up to 700 million markers a year and has partnered with New York clean energy company JBI to create the Colorcycle initiative. Under the initiative, about 600 schools around the country have so far agreed to recycle their used markers for free.”

Crayola manufactures the majority of the world’s markers and crayons; a whopping 60 percent of markers and 80 percent of crayons are manufactured in the company’s main facilities in Easton, Pa.

Those sound like great numbers for any business, but they’re not so good for the environment. Crayola markers aren’t easy to recycle, so many of their markers end up in landfills because the only recyclable part of a marker is the plastic tube on the outside. Most folks don’t bother stripping the non-recyclable filter-like ink tube on the inside; they just throw the whole thing away.

Instead of throwing away all those resources, Crayola’s making a big effort to make an even bigger impact.

Instead of being thrown away, they’re collected from schools, then the dried up markers are then shipped to JBI. JBI specializes in the recycling of all sorts of dense plastics. A typical day at the plant sees things like shampoo bottles, pill bottles, and small plastic appliances.

The markers, in their entirety, are melted and compacted in large machines that break down long complex plastic molecules thousands of atoms long. These machines are capable of processing somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 pounds of plastics per hour and they “produce clean fuel at a rate of a few gallons a minute.”

“It’s an excellent way to handle un-recyclable plastics, and it’s a very critical one because only 8 to 9 percent of the plastic in the U.S. is actually recycled. The rest of it goes to landfill,” John Bordynuik, the chief of technology at JBI, told Fox News.

Crayola hopes they have found an environmentally sustainable solution for reusing their product, but it’s really a dual-purpose effort since it can also serve as a teaching moment for kids in schools.

The days of excess may not be over just yet, but that’s no reason to act carelessly. Crayola is showing the world that they’re leaders in more than just markers, and they’re not a household brand for nothing.

“So far, 17,000 markers have been recycled, but Crayola hopes to raise that number to 70 million.”

Next time you’re cleaning out your child’s art bin, don’t be tempted to just toss them into the trash. Check out the Crayola Colorcycle initiative, and find out how you can get involved.

With reports being pretty early, I was unable to find comprehensive stats on how many markers it takes to make a gallon of fuel, but I’m open to any guesses.

Image Credit: Ian Tragen / Shutterstock

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