As green thinking parent, I shudder to think about the many Crayola (and Expo) markers that have been sent to the trash in my classroom, and now that my kids are older, in my house. I am usually pretty mellow about things, but when they don't put the lids back on a marker, I get particularly antsy. Uptight. Saying in a high pitched voice, "make sure it clicks!" and "where did the lid go?" with serious urgency.
Because despite my critical analysis of most of the items that come in my house, art materials aren't up to the same standards. I don't buy any of it from the dollar store, because I know it will last maybe one day, and is probably toxic. To create art, Crayola markers are widely available, cheap, and we use them all the time. I've seen some nice non-toxic art supplies from MightyNest, Rossie Hippo, but I just haven't gone green on this one. I don't have a hundred extra bucks to order groovy art supplies from my favorite greenie and natural stores.
And I'm thinking most of America is in this same boat. We really just need Crayola to take back and recycle or reuse their plastic markers. Can you imagine how much plastic waste this would save from our landfills? And how many parents would rejoice (and sleep better with less guilt!)? Crayola makes 500 million markers every year and they are made from polypropylene #5 plastic, not widely accepted at recycling facilities. I've never heard of a recycling facility allowing markers!
All Crayola really needs to do is employ the same philosophy as many European companies, and be responsible for their products cradle to grave. The manufacturer should take on responsibilty to keep their products out of the waste stream. It's called Extended Producer Responsibility -- making companies cover the end of life costs of the products they make (what a brilliant idea).
It is in this spirit that Amy Sunback started this group on Facebook, called Take Back the Markers: Help Convince Crayola to Recycle Their Markers. Join her and grab the attention of Crayola. After joining the group I also learned I never need to toss another marker. While I would like to see Crayola take responsibility for this, there still is a way to recycle those dead markers. Just head to Terracycle (whose other products have been reviewed here) and learn about their Writing Instruments Brigade. I will be starting one of these at my school, because Expo markers only last a few months and I have been wincing as I throw them out for years.
And let's not stop there. For a company that has become very successful from selling art supplies, Crayola needs to accept responsibility for their products' environmental effects. Let's encourage them to take responsibility for their plastic waste. Write to Crayola on their comment page and encourage them to recycle their markers.
Too tired? Barely firing brain cells (believe me, I've been there)? Cut and paste this into the comment field:
Thanks for making a variety of art supplies for children. I buy and use Crayola markers with my children, and I am also trying to teach them how to care for the environment. It confuses them when their old markers are neither compostable or recyclable, but must be thrown in the trash. Please take responsibility for the amount of plastic your markers are sending to the landfill, for future generations to have to deal with. And too much plastic makes its way into our world's oceans. It's time to develop a program to take back your markers to be recycled. It is good for the earth, for our children, and ultimately, it will be good for your business.
It feels good to finally get this one off my chest. It's been cooking for months. Beth (from Fake Plastic Fish) will be proud. Thanks to Amy for bringing this to the forefront of my overworked and very tired brain.
image: Thomas Hawk on Flickr under Creative Commons