A Letter to Crayola | My Plastic-free Life

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A Letter to Crayola
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December 26, 2009
2:32 pm
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Recycling and picking up litter is just one piece of the pie to make our planet a greener place to live. It also helps if we purchase products that are manufacturered in an environmentally friendly way. Some manufacturers have been doing this for a long time, others are starting to join them, and still others need a lot of help. One manufacturer that I recently contacted was Crayola.

Crayola makes a lot of great products that students frequently use, and they seem to do a good job making their products in an environmentally friendly way. There are some interesting and fun links on their website describing all of the things they do at the factory to protect the Earth. Click on the following to see how they make markers, crayons, and colored pencils as green as possible.

http://www.crayola.com/about/e…..arkers.cfm

http://www.crayola.com/about/e…..rayons.cfm

http://www.crayola.com/about/e…..encils.cfm

I always felt bad throwing out markers after they were used up. So I wrote an e-mail to Crayola's customer service department asking if it was possible to recycle the markers by creating a program similar to Elmer's Glue Glue Crew.

http://www.elmersgluecrew.com/

The following is the response they sent back.

Dear Jay,

Thank you for your recent inquiry. Crayola is constantly striving, through our own marketing and research and development departments, to develop new products, concepts and improve existing ones to meet consumer needs. We recognize that consumers like you are our most valuable assets. By listening to your comments, we can provide the best quality products and services available. Your suggestion to start a program similar to Elmer’s Glue have been recorded with similar ones received from consumers.

Crayola is continually evaluating opportunities to make our products environmentally friendly. All Crayola Markers are made of five components, which include a water based color solution, a porous plastic nib, a plastic barrel, a cotton filament and a cap. The plastic components are made of polypropylene plastic. During production, we reuse plastic left from molding processes. Since Crayola Markers are tightly assembled for safety and quality purposes, it is generally not practical to attempt to recycle them.

We appreciate your contact. If additional assistance is needed, you may reach us by telephone at (800) 272-9652 weekdays between 9 AM and 4 PM Eastern Time or e-mail by visiting Crayola.com. Best wishes for a colorful future!

Colorfully yours,

Jo Ellen Raub

Consumer Affairs Lead Representative

CRAYOLA

As you can see, it's not practical to recycle the markers because of the different materials they are made of. But writing Crayola was still a success because it reinforces the fact that more and more customers are asking for environmentally friendly products.

I encourage you to follow my example. Here are some steps to help you out.

1. Think of a product that you use every day.

2. Learn how that product is made.

3. Think about how that product can be made in a more environmentally friendly way.

4. Write an e-mail to the manufacturer with your suggestion. Most manufacturers' websites have a customer service or "Contact Us" link.

Hopefully, you'll get a response back.

December 28, 2009
4:26 pm
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Nice – I like the suggestion. I've been just eliminating things, or substituting, but you're right, the contact makes them think, and purchasing power == power to change. I'm going to give the company that makes my bread a call and see what I can do about the bread bag. At least the double bag, maybe they can keep it fresh in a single bag. I guess I don't even know that much.

December 28, 2009
6:19 pm
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You can recycle bread bags at facilities that accept plastic grocery bags. There are lots of other bag types that most people don't realize can also be recycled.

http://earth911.com/blog/2009/…..stic-bags/

December 30, 2009
4:27 am
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Absolutely! That is how our Take Back The Filter Campaign started. http://takebackthefilter.org And I think it's best for us to choose companies that we actually patronize. Companies are more willing to listen to their customers than to people who never buy their products in the first place.

December 31, 2009
2:53 pm
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A follow up – I emailed Food For Life (they make the rice based breads that my bf and I have found it virtually impossible to live without, but are packaged in 2 plastic bags). They quickly responded:

"…I’ve gone ahead and submitted your suggestion in our customer file that will be distributed to company leaders at the end of this month. At this time we package our bread with an outer wrapper and a moisture barrier to prevent the bread from drying out during frozen transport. It might be difficult to eliminate our inner wrapper because of the conditions involved in shipping, but we understand the importance of sustainable living and will be working hard at finding better solutions to issues like this one regarding packaging…"

I asked them about a bread mix they could sell in bulk = less packaging per serving. Maybe nothing will happen, maybe something will. I think the real problem with the baked bread is that the inner wrapper seals the moisture in the bread, the outer wrapper allows the customer to reseal it when they get it home. I wrote back and suggested that they keep the inner, sealing wrapper, maybe apply a resealing sticky flap, and print their brand and nutrition info on it – but I don't know if the sticky flaps (like they have on the packages of cookies I can't eat anymore) have a recycling impact or not.

In the very least, I definitely appreciate the plastic that is in my life a lot more. Markers and bread wrappers both :D

January 1, 2010
11:54 pm
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August 22, 2011
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(I like the new forum section of the website – great job!)

Inspired by Beth, I just sent my second letter to a manufacturer this month asking them to consider plastic-alternative packaging. While it's a small step, i think it adds up.

Both companies in this case advertised some environmental benefit of their product, so I thanked them regarding that issue, told them I, too, am concerned with environmental issues and encouraged them to take it a step further.

I figure that even manufacturers and stores that are not concerned with the environment are still concerned with wanting my money, so why not tell them what I do and don't like about their products.

-Joules

January 6, 2010
9:57 am
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Every voice counts. You never know what the tipping point will be for companies to make changes. You could be the one that puts them over the edge!

Thanks, Joules. I like it too and am hoping that we can all learn from each other this way.

January 8, 2010
7:19 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Hi all. I have been thinking about this topic the last few days, too. I have started a FaceBook page called Crayola Should Recycle Their Markers. Come join me. Maybe we can get something going and make Crayola take notice!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/…..314?ref=nf

Cheers,

Amy

January 10, 2010
10:11 am
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Hi HenrysMom. Thank you for taking action! I have become a fan of your FB page. But I would suggest that you also create a Facebook cause or Facebook group to promote this campaign. I believe that those venues give you more tools for contacting and interacting with supporters. Facebook causes makes it very easy for supporters to recruit others to the cause, and shows the top recruiters on a leader board, which can be an incentive for others.

You might also want to start a petition.

AND you could do what we did for the Take Back The Filter campaign and get people to send you their used markers! You could have the intention of delivering them to Crayola after you have collected a certain number -- whatever number you think will create a big impact.

I would be happy to share with you tactics we used for the Take Back The Filter campaign. We also contacted many other environmental organizations and bloggers to help us spread the word.

January 10, 2010
3:14 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Beth, thanks for the suggestions about FB. I have been reading your blog here since I posted the other day. Great job, you inspire me! I will give the Crayola Marker issue some more attention in the next few days. Thanks again.

January 11, 2010
3:26 pm
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August 22, 2011
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I took Beth's advice and created a FaceBook Group (replaces the original simple FB page) for this cause. I cribbed directly from the Take Back the Filter Campaign in making the title: Take Back the Markers: Help Convince Crayola to Recycle Their Markers.

http://www.facebook.com/group……038;ref=mf

Next: a website, letter writing campaign, a petition. Thanks Beth!

Amy Sundback

January 12, 2010
7:19 pm
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Awesome! I have joined and forwarded the Group to many, many people, many of whom are bloggers.

Do you have a Twitter account? Maybe create one for Take Back the Markers.

Let me know when your web site is up!

January 12, 2010
8:17 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Another option would be for Crayola to partner with TerraCycle and have a marker brigade. Here's a similar one that was recently created for Sharpie markers.

http://blog.sharpie.com/misc/t…..le/pop.htm

January 13, 2010
2:04 pm
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AngryBeaver,

TerraCycle DOES accept Crayola markers through their Writing Instruments Brigade. And they will pay .02 for each marker which can be designated to the non-profit of your choice. Nice! I think Sharpie and PaperMate are official sponsors but TerraCycle accepts all markers and writing instruments, no matter who the manufacturer is. You need to sign up with them before you can send in markers but it seems straightforward and simple. Plus, they will send you postage paid labels for a mailing a big box of markers.

http://www.terracycle.net/brig…..s-Brigade-

I'm not sure what TerraCycle does with markers and pens. Not sure if they repurpose (I think they call it upcycle) them or recycle

them.

I still hope to have dialogue with Crayola about recycling their own markers back into markers! It would be great to have another option for keeping the markers out of landfills.

Amy

January 13, 2010
4:09 pm
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HenrysMom, I agree with you that companies need to arrange for and pay for the recycling themselves, which is called Extended Producer Responsibility, rather than relying on other companies or the public to pick up the tab for the products they produce. Keep going! Create that web site!

As for Terracycle, while I know they have their heart in the right place, I have seen some of the products they make out of juice boxes and candy wrappers, and all I can say is "hella fuggly." The wallets and bags are just extra stuff in this world that I find downright unattractive, but that's just my taste.Your mileage may vary. I know some people like them or they wouldn't buy them.

The best solution would be for Crayola to develop a refillable marker.

January 14, 2010
1:52 am
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HenrysMom, check it out. The blog Recycle Your Day has written about your campaign!

http://recycleyourday.com/get-…..r-markers/

Keep going! Get that website up!

January 14, 2010
5:49 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Beth,

I agree with you about TerraCycle. Whether you like their stuff or not, it's still stuff that will end up in a landfill someday. Putting off the inevitable isn't the best solution to our problem.

I like the idea of a refillable marker! Now I'm going to have to explore what the innards are made of and if they can be recycled or composted. If Crayola would both recycle the marker tubes and offer refillables…awesome.

Domaine names reserved, working on website. New to it all, learning curves involved!

January 14, 2010
6:17 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Maybe Crayola can swap out the ink cartridge and nub and reuse the barrel and cap (instead of grinding them up and recycling them)?

January 28, 2010
3:15 am
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HenrysMom, any progress on the campaign/web site?

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