CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s an inconvenient truth. According to www.mecknc.gov, Mecklenburg County throws away over 750 million pounds of trash every year — that’s 875 pounds per person. One Charlotte club has found a colorful way to get that number lower.
Crayons. Waxy and colorful, they’re quite literally the highlights of any kindergartner’s day.
But they lead to a lot of waste.
According to habitsofwaste.org, American restaurants throw away over 150 million still-usable crayons every year. To make matters worse, the wax paper they use does not readily decompose in landfills.
Meet Mackenzie Smart. She’s the founder of UNC-Charlotte’s Sustainable Development Goals club, or SDG for short.
“I am a waitress… obviously any time you go to a restaurant you see that they give the crayons away with the kids’ menus. But as a waitress on the other side of it, we were seeing just how many we were throwing away.”
“We were kind of just like, ‘What should we do about it?’ We thought about it for a while, and then I flashed back to elementary school when we were melting them down in the teacher’s workroom when we would take all the little bits and make new crayons. and I was like, ‘What if we did something like that?’
They called it Project Crayon, and the process behind it is simple. First, they collect used crayons from partner restaurants in the area. The crayons are then stripped of their paper and melted down before being poured into molds — and voila, a new crayon is made and ready to be used.
“We take these recycled crayons and we drop them off at two elementary schools in charlotte… it’s all the kindergarten classes there, so total, I think it’s about 159 students last year… eight crayons for each kid.”
The paraffin paper is also recycled into compostable seed paper. whether you pronounce it “cray-yon” or “cran,” it’s easy to draw an eco-friendly conclusion with a bit of help from these students.