Micah Alise Bledsoe

Monday, April 16, 2018

California nonprofit makes new crayons out of broken pieces, donates them to children’s hospitals

DANVILLE, Calif. – A California nonprofit has collected more than 20 million old crayons from across the United States, melted and remolded them, then donated the new crayons to children’s hospitals, including those in Mesa and Phoenix.

Bryan Ware is founder and president of the Crayon Initiative , which he began in 2011.

He got the idea while he and his family were at a restaurant that provides crayons for patrons to use.

“What happens to these crayons after we leave?” Ware wondered.

An estimated 45,000 to 75,000 pounds of broken, worn-down crayons are dumped in landfills in the U.S. every year, according to the initiative’s website .

Ware said he originally wanted to donate crayons to schools to help with art programs, but that proved difficult. The initiative now donates recycled crayons to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa and 123 other hospitals across the country.

Bryan Ware, founder of the Crayon Initiative, melted old crayons in his home before he found a location for his nonprofit. (Photo by Micah Bledsoe/Cronkite News)

Ware said he usually does large team-building events at corporations to sort the donated crayons by color. After sorting, workers or volunteers melt the candles.

Ware said workers first must remove the paper crayon wrappers, which he donates to an artificial log company.

“They grind them up and put them in the logs to burn so there’s no waste that we develop here,” he said.

Clarissa Byrd, a child-life specialist at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said crayons can “provide hours of enjoyment” for children being treated at her hospital.

“There’s kids that are in there that have all of these emotions going on and being able to grab a box of crayons and take their mind off of the trauma that’s going on and to color is so important,” Byrd said.

Ware said he wants to donate 200,000 packs of crayons this year.

He said his nonprofit prevents unnecessary waste by keeping crayons out of landfills, but he loves watching the children’s reactions.

“Knowing that we brought a smile to their face inside a world that most of us can’t even identify with” is the good part, Ware said. “That’s the good feeling.”

Bryan Ware, president of the Crayon Initiative, said he wants to donate 200,000 packs of crayons this year to 123 children’s hospitals, including Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. (Photo by Micah Bledsoe/Cronkite News)

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News , Arizona PBS , KJZZ , KPCC , Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal .

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