Recycling with a purpose: Nonprofit refurbishes crayons for children’s hospitals

2 Valley hospitals among those receiving crayons from The Crayon Initiative


When you throw away leftover crayons, odds are you’re not the only one — whether in your city, state or country.

Helping curb the disposal of crayons to landfills with a unique idea is The Crayon Initiative, a nonprofit based out of California. The nonprofit collects discarded crayons from restaurants and other sources, remanufactures them and provides new packs to hospital pediatric wards.

In Arizona, The Crayon Initiative has teamed up with CSAA Insurance Group in Glendale for the sixth straight year to sort used or unwanted crayons so they can be melted down, made into new crayons, and donated to children’s hospitals around the country.

“It’s a great idea,” CSAA Volunteer Manager Roger Hancock said about the Crayon Initiative. “When you go to a restaurant, Chili’s, Bubba Gump, whatever it is, if they put crayons on the table, once they’re on the table, they can’t be used again. They’re not going to give that crayon to some other kid who’s coming to the restaurant. They just get thrown away. The idea of collecting these crayons… and then recycling to go to kids in children’s hospitals, is just a brilliant idea.”

The sorting in Glendale happened Wednesday and Thursday at CSAA’s office near 51st Avenue and Bell Road.

Bryan Ware — who founded The Crayon Initiative in 2014 — says they donate the crayons on a rotating basis to around 245 children’s hospitals. Among them are Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix and Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. The latter receives more than 3,000 crayons per year from the initiative, according to a hospital spokesman.

“The work we do has a significant impact on local communities,” Mr. Ware stated. “Our crayon recycling efforts help ensure that children have the tools they need to enjoy the healthful benefits of art and creativity.”

Mr. Ware says crayons offer hospitalized children a creative outlet for self-expression, which can help them cope with their illnesses, alleviate feelings of anxiety, and contribute to a sense of normalcy. And maybe most importantly, allow them to enjoy being a child.

To date, The Crayon Initiative has collected more than 41 million crayons and donated new packs of crayons to more than 420,000 children in hospitals around the country.

The nonprofit started from a night out at dinner when Mr. Ware’s children were coloring. Questions arose, “What do they do with these crayons? How do we reuse these in some fashion? Can you reuse them?”

“We went back home and started investigating,” Mr. Ware said. And after a conversation with a friend who works at a children’s hospital in California, Mr. Ware determined children’s hospitals to be a good fit for his nonprofit.

Unwanted crayons collected by The Crayon Initiative also help reduce negative impacts on the environment. Crayons are not biodegradable and create a waxy sludge that may not break down for centuries. To date, The Crayon Initiative has diverted 293,000 pounds of crayons destined for landfills, according to a release.

“I started it because of the art and the kids, not from the environmental perspective,” Mr. Ware said. “But the environmental buzz is important to companies and funding. So, we bounce back and forth between the two. From a basic perspective it’s very important. We receive about 2,000 pounds of crayons every week... Is it important? Yeah, we can make new crayons out of them. No sense in throwing them away.”

The Crayon Initiative hopes to refurbish around 300,000 crayons this year.

Have used or new crayons laying around? Visit to learn how to send the crayons to the nonprofit.