Artsy Things plastic barrels and caps from Crayola markers, ready to recycle

Published on June 5th, 2012 | by Julie Finn

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How-to: Recycle Crayola Markers

plastic barrels and caps from Crayola markers, ready to recycle

Have you heard about the group of California schoolchildren who want Crayola to establish a recycling program for their markers? To make a long story short, Crayola won’t do it (yet), and Crayola doesn’t want you to recycle their markers, either, because breaking down a Crayola marker for recycling would require taking it apart, exposing tiny pieces that are potential choking hazards and thus freaking out Crayola’s lawyers.

However, you CAN recycle most of a Crayola marker. It’s messy work, and it’s time-consuming, but it’s also a great lesson for kids (and for us!) about the obligations of responsible consumerism. Here’s how to do it:

pry the plug off of the end of the marker

Crayola publicly admits that their marker caps are made from polypropylene, a #5 recyclable plastic, so first set all your marker caps in the recyclable pile. Easy!

Although Crayola’s PR people won’t say it (they don’t want you to disassemble their markers, remember?), if you look up the materials specifications of Crayola markers (read page 5, under the marker specifications, in this Crayola school supplies catalog), you’ll see that the plastic barrels of Crayola markers are also made of polypropylene, a #5 recyclable plastic.

To remove the barrel, look at the end of the marker to find the seam where a plastic plug has been inserted–it’s my guess that this plug is also #5 plastic, but I haven’t been able to confirm it, so I don’t yet recycle the plug. Use something sharp, such as the box knife that my seven-year-old is responsibly wielding (yes, the same seven-year-old who also had a black eye in my post last week, because I’m apparently one of THOSE mothers), to pry the plug off of the barrel. The plug is tight, but it isn’t glued in, so it really isn’t that hard to pry it off. Set the plug in the trash pile.

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



17 Responses to How-to: Recycle Crayola Markers

  1. jenny says:

    I just threw away 2 markers yesterday!! And last week, I toured my town’s recycling plant and hazardous wast facility – I learned we can recycle SO much more plastic than we have been. Its too bad Crayola won’t do this. Maybe you can mention it to your school district – A handy person could create a simple rig to cut the end of the marker (like a cigar cutter-thingy), that would make it quicker and less dangerous. Maybe the local recycling facility would pay you whatever they make for that and it could go to a school supply fund for underprivileged kids in the district or something.

    I wonder if the fibers in the inkwell could be used to make homemade paper or something? I’ll have to try this :)

  2. Virginia says:

    Good to know! Also if you soak the inks in water, you get watercolors. The less water, the darker/brighter the color. If the inks are neon…you can make glow water! Then with both the black light and glow water…you can put it in the bathtub (non-toxic), spray bottles, and even freeze it in ice cubes!!!!

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  5. Nicole says:

    I am an art teacher who was also seeking a way to recycle markers. I just discovered that the company Terracycle has several programs, including a writing instrument recycling program that appears to accept crayola markers. Here is the site… http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/writing-instruments-brigade-r.html

  6. Kait says:

    Thank you for the lovely tutorial! And Virginia, thank you for the tip on the watercolors. I will have to try that. I am now thinking of a mixed media piece using the fibers from the inkwells of some old markers we have!

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  8. Rook says:

    I just opened a marker to see if I could use the colouring (crayola) for dying coffee filters. It seems to work pretty good. Anyway, I pulled out the barrel, split it open, and squeezed out all the ink. You know, what’s left when you remove the packing from the straw is a nice little pile of batting. If you let it dry without taking out all the ink, you would have coloured batting. If you squeeze it and rinse it thoroughly, you will make it white. I think that this stuff could be used as “something”……perhaps in multimedia art, weaving (?).doll hair, etc…. just to use up the whole of the marker. Who knew?

  9. Rook says:

    OH, and another thing. I have seen a tutorial on how to use the plastic barrels and the lids of these markers to make jumpropes. You can send them to be recycled at the plant, but I think these could come in handy for multimedia or something.

  10. Cindy says:

    I thought maybe the tool that you use to cut pvc pipe would work and voila! it does…It looks like a pair of scissors but you put it over the marker and then just keep twisting the tool around the marker and the end falls off…A lot safer and quicker!

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  12. Annmarie says:

    I’m the education & outreach coordinator for my county’s recycling program, so I’m always scouring the internet for creative reuse/recycling projects. I’m sorry to bust the bubble on this one…but most communities won’t actually be able to recycle these barrels and caps, especially in a curbside recycling program. And I always feel bad when residents put something in a blue bin thinking it will get recycled, yet I know it’s actually going to get buried or burned. Modern materials recocvery facilities (MRFs) place like-type plastics together in large, compressed bales to be sold to market; tiny little scraps like these are hard to capture and bale, much less sort correctly since they are unlabeled. Even though they cumulatively equal a BIG amount of plastic, little pieces tend to be disposed at the MRF. The good news is that Crayola is now offering a free take-back program to collect their brand’s markers (www.crayola.com/colorcycle.aspx) to convert the plastic barrels into fuel. Any school can particpate, so, encourage your local facilities to do so, then drop off your old markers at school! Terracyle may also offer options for Sharpies and pens (www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/writing-instruments-brigade-r.html). It’s not ideal, but it’s better than wasting… Thanks for thinking “green” with your color markers!

    • Julie Finn says:

      I think it’s worth asking your local recycling center, since I know for a fact that mine takes these. Now that Crayola is doing the take-back program, however (they weren’t when I wrote this), I agree that’s a better option for the barrels.

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  15. catherine says:

    just a heads up, the Pipsqueaks markers are almost impossible to open. i just broke two blades on my heavy-duty box cutter! i had to cut it off completely, then slice the marker opened to get the rest of the plug off!

  16. Lori says:

    I have been doing this for ages! A couple of tips from my experiences:

    1- No knife is needed, just grab and pinch the end cap with a pair of pliers. As you squeeze, the top will pop up. The casing may crack in the process, but who cares?

    2- I keep lots of extra caps in my marker supply! I never have to search for the one cap that mysteriously disappeared so the marker won’t dry out- just snap on a spare and find the original when convenient, or when it turns up.

    Lori

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