No young artist can resist the crisp, new box of crayons that back-to-school season so often brings, but not every little artist has access to them.
When Bryan Ware learned that 25 to 35 tons of discarded crayons end up in the landfill each year—where they are terribly slow to biodegrade—he got cooking. Literally.
He now extends their useful life through his nonprofit startup, The Crayon Initiative, boiling them down and repurposing them into new boxes of crayons for kids in need.
It’s changing the shape of the crayons themselves, too, making them easier for special-needs children to hold.
It all started about four years ago, when the Danville, California dad was out to eat with his family one evening, and the waitress brought crayons for the kids.
“He was fiddling with a crayon and said, ‘I wonder what happens to these when we leave,’” his wife, Marissa Ware, told Contra Costa Times.
Chances are, they go straight into the trash. Restaurants often dump crayons after a single use, because they harbor germs. For that same reason, they can’t be collected up and donated, say, to hospitals.
More than 100,000 boxes, donated from all over the U.S., have already been transformed into 800,000 thicker, triangular-bodied crayons, while towering bags of old crayons, sorted by color still await their turn in the melting pot.
Bryan Ware estimates he has invested nearly $30,000 of his own money into the startup. He partnered with a physical therapist to create the new crayons’ easy-grip design, then arranged for the manufacture of the metal molds needed to transform old crayons into the new shape.
With the old crayons piling up in his garage, what he needs now is the corporate funding to scale up and move the operation out of his family’s home and into a proper production facility, complete with warehouse.
But for now, with or without other family members’ help, he’ll go on spending 30 to 40 hours a week at the kitchen stove, stirring two big stainless-steel pots full of melting crayons.
“We think it’s massive and we’re just scratching the surface of it,” he said.
To learn more or to donate to the Crayon Initiative, go to thecrayoninitiative.org. Old crayons can be sent to 540 Glasgow Circle, Danville, CA, 94526.
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