Waste in the food industry is no joke. Each year in the US, over 20 billion pounds of food go to waste from restaurants alone – but food isn’t the only resource rotting away in the backroom of your local Applebee’s. To keep kids occupied while their parents attempt to enjoy a leisurely dinner, many restaurants have taken to handing out little packs of crayons with their kids’ menus. But once your leftovers are boxed up, the crayon drawings are covered in grease, and the crayons generally meet their sticky ends among the stray noodles and splattered soda.
Most of us never consider the extremely short lifespan of restaurant crayons, and for a while, neither did father and entrepreneur Bryan Ware. One day while dining out with his kids, Ware had a strange realization. Every restaurant crayon is brand new when it first enters the hands of an eager kid – so what happens to them after their 20 minutes of use? Ware did some research, and what he discovered was alarming.
“More than a half-million pounds of crayons are discarded every year, turning into a waxy sludge that clogs our landfills and never biodegrades,” Ware explained on his website.
In response to the immense waste, Ware came up with a colorful solution that helped solve two glaring problems. Ware launched a program he called The Crayon Initiative, a brilliant organization that turns waste into something incredibly useful.
“The Crayon Initiative collects donated crayons from restaurants, schools and homes across the country, then melts them down and remanufactures them, reducing waste,” Ware’s Crayon Initiative website explains. “Better yet, the recycled crayons are distributed to art programs at children’s hospitals across the U.S., brightening the lives of young patients during their stay.”
One beautiful aspect of repurposing crayons is that after melting them down, they can take any shape. The initiative’s crayons are molded into thicker crayons that are easier to grip than the regular variety, especially for kids with disabilities or small motor problems.
A prolonged hospital stay is a time often filled with fear and uncertainty, but fortunately, many hospitals offer art programs to give kids something to look forward to. The Crayon Initiative has donated over 430,000 boxes of crayons to hospitalized kids, providing a bit of much-needed brightness.
Ware explains, “When the patients at our partner hospitals finally get to go home, they often take our crayons with them because they represent a happy memory during an otherwise uncertain time.”