In 2012, a group of elementary school students started a Crayola: Make Your Mark! petition calling for Crayola to "make sure these markers don't end up in our landfills, incinerators and oceans." The petition gathered over 90,000 petition signers. In 2013, Crayola launched their ColorCycle program, but won't admit that the student campaign was the catalyst for this program.
Crayola initially sent these markers to JBI's "plastics to oil" facility in Niagara, New York. This experimental operation closed down in December 2013 and remains idle, with the company claiming financial reasons (as have similar companies trying this failed plastics pyrolysis technology).
Crayola admits that its whole markers are not recyclable. They refuse to disclose which companies or facilities are processing the markers collected in their "ColorCycle" program, but claim that their "ColorCycle program repurposes the entire marker and turns it into reusable alternatives such as oil, electricity and wax."
Burning is NOT recycling!
Crayola admits that their initial plastics-to-oil scheme didn't work out, yet is still pursuing polluting and experimental incineration and pyrolysis schemes in communities they refuse to name.
Plastics-to-oil technology (pyrolysis) is very experimental, with various small demonstration facilities usually failing for technical and/or economic reasons, as JBI did. Pyrolysis is similar to incineration in that it's expensive and polluting, destroying materials, releasing toxins and waste products, and creating new toxic chemicals in the process.
Crayola also indicates that they're sending "ColorCycled" markers to be burned in trash incinerators. They state that they're using them to "generate electricity in the United States" and refer to "Energy from Waste plants," pretending that they "are a clean, reliable, and renewable source of energy that produces electricity with little environmental impact." This can only describe trash incinerators, most of which have rebranded themselves as "waste to energy" or "energy from waste" facilities.
In fact, trash incinerators are the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste or to make energy -- dirtier than coal power plants, and dirtier than landfills. They turn waste into toxic ash (which goes to landfills, anyway) and toxic air pollution. They release pollutants like nitrogen oxides, lead, mercury, and dioxin that contribute to ADHD, asthma, birth defects, cancer, learning disabilities, reduced IQ, violent behavior and many other health problems. This is not what a company should be doing if they "believe every child should have a healthy planet for their creative todays and tomorrows" as they claim.
In fact, the elementary school students who initially demanded marker recycling from Crayola specifically called for "Crayola to make sure these markers don't end up in our landfills, incinerators and oceans."
It's time for Crayola to come clean. Please sign this petition demanding that Crayola:
- be transparent about the specific facilities and processes where their ColorCycled markers are going,
- immediately stop supporting trash incinerators and incinerator-like pyrolysis schemes,
- redesign their markers so that they're refillable and 100% recyclable, and
- actually recycle the markers they collect.
Please email or call Mike at 215-436-9511 with any questions.
We called Crayola on August 9, 2017 to clarify what happens to the ColorCycled markers. They promptly sent this response (answering even more questions than we'd asked):
Thank you for reaching out to us. Here are the additional questions and answers with regard to our ColorCycle program that we are able to share with you. Thank you again for your interest.
Q1. What is Crayola ColorCycle?
A. Crayola is all about innovative solutions ~ in particular for kids and the environment. ColorCycle is our latest sustainability initiative designed to repurpose used Crayola markers in an environmentally friendly way.
Q2. Is Crayola’s ColorCycle program similar to others in the crayon and marker industry?
A. There are several other programs that we are aware of. Our program, ColorCycle, will accept all brands of plastic markers, not just Crayola markers. Crayola ColorCycle can potentially eliminate placing hundreds of tons of markers into landfills, and instead, repurpose the markers into alternative uses.
Q3. How can I find out more about ColorCycle and other Crayola environmental initiatives? A. For more information about the ColorCycle program, visit www.crayola.com/colorcycle. To find out about all of Crayola’s other environmental initiatives including our 30-acre solar farm, go to www.crayola.com/about-us/green. [Note: their link is bad, but this one works: http://www.crayola.com/about-us/company/green-initiatives.aspx]
Q4. Why did it take so long to institute marker program?
A. Crayola has been researching alternative marker solutions for years, but because of the complexity of the marker structure and various plastics types and parts, it has taken some time. Crayola is proud to now provide a program where markers can be repurposed for a variety of uses.
Q5. Is Crayola still using the plastic-to-energy process to turn markers into clean fuel?
A. Yes. Crayola launched the ColorCycle program in 2013 using the plastic-to-energy process to produce clean fuel since it was the most efficient and beneficial way to reuse the entire marker and keep plastic out of landfills. As we continue to explore innovative solutions and understand emerging technologies in this area, there are also other opportunities to broaden the program and how our markers could be repurposed.
Q6. If the output from ColorCycle isn’t clean fuel, what is it?
A. Currently, Crayola is working with several conversion partners to make transportation fuels and generate electricity in the United States and a wax compound for asphalt in Canada.
Q7. Are you still using JBI?
A. No, Crayola launched the program in 2013 with JBI, Inc. because at the time they appeared to have had the most efficient technologies to repurpose Crayola’s entire marker. As expected, Crayola learned a lot in the first year and continues to evaluate and evolve emerging technologies in this area and broaden the ColorCycle program and how our markers are repurposed.
Q8. Who are Crayola’s new partners for the ColorCycle program?
Today, we are working with a variety of conversion entities that have innovative and emerging technologies for repurposing markers. We expect to continually evolve the ColorCycle program and bring in new partners where appropriate. Beyond that, we do not share our supplier and vendor partners.
Q9. What is the end output of Crayola markers?
A. The companies we are working with in the United States can convert the plastic markers into usable energy, specifically electricity and transportation fuels.
Q10. Is the process of repurposing markers into electricity environmentally friendly?
A. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Energy from Waste plants are a clean, reliable, and renewable source of energy that produces electricity with little environmental impact.
Q9. Is your carbon footprint really being reduced as a result of the ColorCycle program?
A. Crayola always looks to reduce its carbon footprint. For example, we track CO2e for all of our North American operations, set goals to improve, track our progress, and make the information public on www.crayola.com.
Q11. Does Crayola receive any money for participating in this process?
A. No, Crayola does not receive money from participating in the ColorCycle program.
Q12. Who is eligible to participate in the ColorCycle program?
A. Any school, kindergarten through 12th grade in the contiguous 48 United States and some areas in Canada can participate. Unfortunately, daycare centers and preschools are not included at this time.
Q12A. Can a school on a United States Army Base participate? We have a regular US mailing address and can ship to and from the US using the US Postal System. We appear to be in the US as it relates to mail.
A. No. Shipping markers overseas by air freight to our repurposing facility in the United States is not environmentally friendly. We recommend you explore a local recycling center in your area.
Q13. Why are not all areas of Canada eligible?
A. Crayola continues to test and learn in Canada to understand how to best optimize and repurpose the markers in its local communities. Unfortunately, there are geographic areas that are not included. Please check www.crayola.com/colorcycle to see if your postal code is included in our Canadian program.
Q14. Why are consumers, daycare centers and preschools not eligible to participate?
A. We are hoping to roll out the program to include home schools, day cares and preschools in the future. In the meantime, please feel free to contact your local school and if they are already participating, feel free to drop off your used markers there. If your local school is not participating, encourage them to do so by visiting www.crayola.com/colorcycle.
Q15. How do I get a program started at my school?
A. It is easy to do! Just log on to www.crayola.com/colorcycle and get started today. An adult must be the school contact. In just a few easy steps, you can begin to collect markers and print out a label for shipping. This program is free to the schools. Contact your principal or PTO to get them signed up and begin collecting markers.
Q16. Is there a contest or any rewards for participating in the ColorCycle program?
A. Our main focus is to provide a way for our students to keep plastics out of landfills while also engaging students in learning about environmental solutions in an innovative and relevant way.
Q17. How do I package the markers to ship them?
A. Any sturdy cardboard box with minimal outer markings will work. The more makers you ship, the more efficient this program will be. We suggest a minimum of 100 markers and a maximum of up to 40 pounds. Only plastic markers will be accepted and it is important for the success of the process that no other materials are shipped in the boxes.
Q18. Where do I get a mailing label for the box?
A. Go to www.crayola.com/colorcycle to print a Crayola pre-paid FedEx shipping label for delivery of the collected markers to the facility for recycling. NOTE: Eric Zebley has confirmed that FedEx does have a maximum print limit on shipping labels to lessen package handling. To make this program as efficient as possible we suggest a minimum of 100 markers and a maximum of up to 40 pounds in each box.
Q19. Are crayons or any of your other products included in the ColorCycle program?
A. We are always looking for new technologies to reuse Crayola products. At this time, we do not have a program for Crayola crayons. However, consumers can use the new Crayola Crayon Factory to melt their used crayons into new ones with unique shapes and colors.
Q20. Was the ColorCycle program created in response to the petition from Change.org?
A. For years, consumers have asked us how to reuse their markers. We have continually looked for ways to support this process, but until last year, the appropriate technology was not available. We continue to test and learn with this initiative and expect the program to evolve and grow over time. We encourage children to continually share their ideas, and we appreciate the suggestions from schools and others who have requested this over the years.
Q21. What else does Crayola do to be environmentally friendly?
A. Crayola has many green initiatives in place, including a solar farm located at its world headquarters in Easton, Pa., that provides enough power to make one billion crayons and a half a million markers each year. For more information on our environmental initiatives, visit http://www.crayola.com/about-us/green-initiatives.aspx. [Note: their link is bad, but this one works: http://www.crayola.com/about-us/company/green-initiatives.aspx]
Q22. We reside in Canada and would like to promote your ColorCycle program. Are there marketing materials in French or a template we can use to translate the parent letter or poster into French?
A. Thank you for your interest in participating in our ColorCycle program. At this time, we do not have marketing materials available in French, but will record this suggestion with others like it. We encourage consumers to continually share their ideas, and we appreciate your feedback.
Q1. Is Crayola going to implement a traditional recycling program for its markers?
A. Currently, our ColorCycle program repurposes the entire marker and turns it into reusable alternatives such as oil, electricity and wax. For more information, visit www.crayola.com/colorcycle.
Q2. Why did Crayola opt to implement a plastic conversion program over a traditional recycling program?
For over a decade, Crayola has explored innovative solutions, including recycling, to divert plastic waste from landfills and understand emerging technologies in this area. Due to the complexity of Crayola markers, the ColorCycle program uses technologies that repurpose the entire marker, regardless of the different kinds of plastic or how they are assembled.
Combined with Crayola’s desire to help educate students, the ColorCycle program is also designed to engage students in learning about environmental solutions in an innovative and relevant way.
Q3. Are Crayola markers recyclable?
A. The entire marker is not recyclable. The plastic marker barrel is recyclable, however, the tip and reservoir would need to be removed first. Our marker caps can be recycled at recycling facilities that accept #5 plastic. The ColorCycle program uses a process that repurposes the entire marker, regardless of the different kinds of plastic or how they are assembled.
Q4. Will Crayola ever consider a different type of recycling program for its markers?
A. Crayola is always looking at innovative solutions and exploring emerging technologies as it relates to our sustainability efforts.
Q5. Is teaching students to burn fuel environmentally responsible?
A. As you know, North America uses all different kinds of fuel to run buses, cars, trains and other modes of mass transportation. The plastic conversion process is able to repurpose entire markers into clean energy and other uses such as electricity and wax, which is still a demand in today’s society. At some point in the future, fuel may not be necessary. But today, encouraging students to think of innovative ways to divert waste from landfills and turn them into a usable material is a key objective for Crayola.
Q1. Why is Crayola ending its partnership with JBI for its ColorCycle program?
A. Crayola is all about innovative solutions ~ in particular for kids and the environment. The goal of ColorCycle has always been to keep plastics out of landfills while also engaging students in learning about environmental solutions in an innovative and relevant way.
While JBI Inc. had the appropriate technology to pilot the launch of our ColorCycle program, we continually evaluate and look for innovative and emerging technologies in this area to broaden the ColorCycle program and how our markers are repurposed.
Q2. Why is Crayola no longer working with JBI? At one point Crayola and JBI were proudly promoting this initiative. What happened?
A. Our partnership with JBI have successfully achieved the objectives we set out to accomplish and repurposed tens of thousands of markers over the last year. However, our relationship with JBI has ended. Crayola's ColorCycle program and the collection and repurposing of plastic markers continues and schools who collect them will still have their markers repurposed for a variety of uses as we work with other partners.
Q3. Is Crayola ending its partnership with JBI because of its questionable reputation?
A. No. JBI Inc. had the appropriate technology to pilot the launch of our ColorCycle program, but our intention has always been to continue to look for innovative and emerging technologies in this area to broaden the ColorCycle program and how our markers are repurposed.
Q4. There are claims that it takes more fuel to run markers through the plastic to energy program than the resulting output. Is this true and why Crayola is changing the ColorCycle program?
A. No. JBI’s plastic to energy process has been exhaustively validated as commercially viable and energy efficient by Fortune 500® SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) (NYSE:SAI), IsleChem (Occidental Chemical’s R&D lab privatized), the New York State DEC, and Conestoga Rovers and associates.
Crayola always looks at innovative solutions and explores emerging technologies as it relates to our sustainability efforts as a company. This includes evaluating alternative energy entities and outputs for our markers.
Q5. JBI Inc. was investigated by the SEC for fraud. Is this true?
A. We do not comment on JBI’s legal matters. Please contact JBI directly.
Q6. Is JBI closing its business? Is that why you’re not working with them?
A. JBI Inc. had the appropriate technology to pilot the launch of our ColorCycle program, but our intention has always been to continue to look for innovative and emerging technologies in this area to broaden the ColorCycle program and how our markers are repurposed. For any questions regarding the state of JBI’s business, please contact JBI directly.
Q7. Would Crayola work with JBI in the future programs?
A. JBI was a great launch partner for the pilot of our ColorCycle program and we always keep our options open as we look for innovative and emerging technologies for our sustainability initiatives.
Thank you for your interest in repurposing plastic markers and creating a greener world for all of us. If we can help further, please let us know. You are welcome to call us at 800-272-9652 between 9 AM and 4 PM EST or email by visiting Crayola.com.
Best wishes for a colorful day, Mike!
Consumer Affairs Representative