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New Life for Old Crayons and Markers

By Kim Robson:

Kids are natural artists. But art supplies aren’t cheap. This joke isn’t far from the truth: Teach your kids about art, and they’ll never have enough money for drugs. And, just as with cosmetic supplies, there’s always a bit left at the bottom that gets wasted and thrown into the landfill. Here are some ways to recycle or repurpose the nubby ends of crayons and dried-out marking pens.

Crayons

First of all, set up a bin to contain broken crayons and nubs. Place it in a prominent location, and make sure your kids know to use it. They can even decorate the bin. This can be a great teaching tool for kids to learn about the Three R’s (Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle). Pro Tip: leave any remaining wrappers on the crayon ends, as they make black, purple, and dark blue colors easier to distinguish. When the bin is full, it’s time to have a melting party!

Chop the nubs into small pieces and put in molds. Place in oven at lowest possible setting. Heat crayons until melted, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool and remove.

Or you can melt the nubs in Dixie cups in the microwave, then pour the liquified crayons into empty glue stick containers to make a fat pop-up crayon! Click here for instructions for the sticks and how to make an adorable caddy for them.

Consider places in your area where your kids might want to donate their remolded crayon stubs. Organizations that need crayons include inner city art programs, hospitals, orphanages, battered women’s shelters, and homeless shelters. Also, ask around for donations of old crayons — restaurants, doctors’ waiting rooms, and daycare centers all go through tons of crayons; and most don’t recycle the ends. Make it like a treasure hunt for them!

Does all that sound like way too much trouble? If so, you can mail your crayon ends to Crazy Crayons, who will melt down, strain, sterilize, and hand pour them into new creations shaped as stars, sticks, or worms.

Crazy Crayons also makes fire starters. Their recycle program is simple and easy to use. They have diverted more than 112,000 pounds of unwanted crayons (a petroleum product that does not decompose) from landfills.

Markers

How many times have you found your kids’ markers with the caps off, seemingly all dried out? It can be infuriating and expensive. But, if it’s only the tip that’s dried out, there are ways to bring them back to life. A single drop of distilled white vinegar on the tip usually does the trick. You can also use water for water-based markers — again, just a tiny bit — you don’t want to dilute the ink. For alcohol-based markers such as Sharpies, try a drop of isopropyl alcohol.

Once those markers are truly out of ink, they can still be recycled. Prang Art Markers and Crayola ColorCycle each have their own recycling programs.

The Pen Guy creates funky art by collecting and reusing tens of thousands of pens that would otherwise be thrown out. He accepts donations of ball point, dry erase, Crayola, felt tip, art markers, mechanical pencils, or any other type of pen.

You can also pull out the ink reservoirs and soak them to make homemade liquid watercolors. Click here for detailed instructions.

The watercolors can be used for

  • Watercolor paintings (obviously)
  • Staining unfinished wood or cardboard
  • Coloring homemade play dough
  • Pouring into spritz bottles for nontoxic spray paint

 

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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