Category Archives: Recycling

7 Ways to Recycle Your Child’s Crayons and Markers

7 Ways to Recycle Your Child's Crayons and Markers

Like most children, my kids love to do art. While they enjoy using repurposed items such as toilet paper tubes and really old computer paper (remember the type with the holes down the side to feed through the printer? We still have a bunch!), they’re always going to use some things we have to buy, such as crayons and markers. Here are some ways to handle the leftover bits from those supplies.


As crayons get too small to use, save the bits in a container. You can reuse them a few ways.

1. Chop into smallish pieces and put into molds. Heat oven to 150 degrees F (or lowest heat possible if your oven doesn’t go that low). Heat crayons in molds until crayons have melted, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from molds when cool.

2. Send old crayons to Crazy Crayons. They’ll make them into new crayons.

3. Make melted crayon art by holding pieces of crayon to a canvas with a fork, and using a blow dryer to melt the crayon.

4. Make new crayons in glue stick containers. Infarrantly Creative has the instructions. Yes, another craft supply to reuse!


Kids are great for using up markers and for leaving the lids off until the colors dry out. This doesn’t have to be the end of the marker!

5. Bring a dried marker back to life using white vinegar. It only takes a drop or so on the tip of the marker. Learn more at Water may also work for water based markers; my youngest even noticed this on her own by running a dry marker under the faucet. Try isopropyl alcohol for alcohol based markers such as Sharpies. Obviously, this won’t work if you’re simply out of ink.

6. Send old markers out for recycling. There are programs through Prang, Crayola and Terracycle, but they’re mostly for schools. There’s also the Pen Guy, who uses old markers in art.

7. Make watercolor paints from old markers. The instructions are available at Crafting a Green World.

6 Times Recycling Isn’t the Answer

6 Times Recycling Isn't the Answer

You’re probably familiar with the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra. It’s an easy reminder of ways to avoid waste. The problem comes in when too many people rely on the last part – recycle – and pay too little attention to the first two. There are a number of reasons why recycling isn’t necessarily the right answer when you’re trying to cut back on waste.

1. You don’t need to recycle what you haven’t bought in the first place.

Reduce is first on the list for a very good reason. You aren’t causing as much waste if you just buy less in the first place. In this case, waste include the recycling of excess products and their packaging.

2. Keep using what you’ve got.

Sending something out for recycling just because you want a new version isn’t environmentally friendly. Cell phones are a strong example of this. According to Scientific American, Americans replace their cell phones on average every 22 months.  That’s ridiculous. Yes, phone and network features have been changing steadily over the past several years, but how much improvement do you really need?

There are times when it makes some sense to replace something you own and still works with a new version, but it doesn’t happen that often. Older refrigerators and freezers may be inefficient enough to be worth replacing even before they break down, for example, and sometimes cities offer haul away programs for them, and may even pay you a little for them. These programs help ensure that such items are properly recycled.

Shopping bags can be reused, for example, even if they aren’t the ones you buy for that purpose. Gift bags and boxes can be used over and over again, so long as they’re in decent condition.

You can also buy things specifically to replace things you might otherwise recycle after only a use or two. Cloth napkins, cloth diapers, stainless steel drinking bottles, rechargeable batteries and so on can replace things you’d otherwise throw out.

3. Repurpose/reuse it.

Some of the things you might otherwise recycle can be repurposed or reused. I keep a supply of empty glass jars around because they’re just so handy for other things. I can’t keep all of them, so a number still go out for recycling over time, but it’s really nice to have a variety of them on hand for when I need one.

I also save a lot of kind of random stuff for my kids to reuse. My oldest daughter in particular – she’s in a club called Destination Imagination, and reusing items is a great way to stay in budget on each year’s challenge. I can’t tell her what to use or how to use it – that’s against the rules – but I can make it available.

Old clothes can be made into new things. This can be especially nice to do with clothes you’re sentimental about. Some people make old sports jerseys into quilts, for example. For less sentimental things, such as that pair of jeans that has worn out, you can consider making a shopping bag or other practical item, depending on how strong the material is.

Be safe about reuse. Some items aren’t particularly safe for reuse and really are better off being recycled. Containers that have held hazardous materials aren’t your best choice for reuse, as a general rule. Similarly, don’t put anything dangerous into a container that makes it look safe or appealing.

4. Sell it.

So you don’t want to reuse it yourself. So what? Is it something someone else would enjoy reusing? You can sell individual items through eBay, Craigslist or any buy-sell-trade boards for your community you may find on Facebook. You get some money, the buyer gets a product for cheaper than they’d get it new. No recycling required.

You can also have a garage sale if you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff and have the patience to put a price on it and hold the sale. You can make some decent money for your effort this way, depending on what you have.

5. Give it away.

If it’s not worth selling, can you just give it away? Or would you prefer to see how much it helps someone else without money as a consideration?

My sisters and I do this with kids’ clothes, handing them down to each other so that much of what the younger kids wear have been through a few other kids already. The clothes could be worth selling, certainly, but we help each other out by handing clothes down freely.

Freecycle is a great site to use when you just want to give something away. Join your local board and post what you have available.

There are also charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, as well as smaller organizations, that can make use of things you’d like to give away. The advantage to these is that you can get a tax deduction based on the fair market value of the items you donate.

6. Buy used.

When you can, be a part of the reuse cycle by buying used items yourself. Children’s clothes are often a wonderful place to start, but you can often find other good quality items for your home and family at thrift stores, consignment shops,or from companies that make new products from used items. The longer an item can be usefully kept out of the recycling stream, the better it often is for the environment.

Make no mistake, recycling – as in breaking down the old material to make something new – is extremely important. It shouldn’t be your first thought, however. Do your best to reduce your purchases and waste, and to reuse or repurpose things when you can. Then look at recycling.

Top 10 Reasons to Recycle

I’ve long been a fan of recycling, but not everyone is. Some think it’s too hard, even in places where recycling is a matter of throwing it in the recycle bin and not the trash can, not a matter of sorting and taking elsewhere. There are plenty of good reasons to recycle.

1. Save trees.

Ok, kind of boring if it’s not your thing. And yes, trees are easily planted, trees are easily farmed, but a replanted forest is no match for an old growth forest. The biodiversity just isn’t there. True recovery for a forest is a matter of far more than putting some trees in the ground.

2. Paper recycling pollutes less water.

In general recycling paper requires less water and fewer chemicals.

3. Reduces the need for landfills.

If you throw it in the trash, most places it goes into the landfill. Not only can landfill space fill up, there can be problems with toxins leaching into the soil from landfills. Throwing it out just isn’t a solution, especially for toxic products.

4. Reduces incinerator use.

Burning trash doesn’t solve the toxic problems. It just puts them into the air people in the surrounding areas breathe.

5. It takes less energy to reuse aluminum.

Making a new aluminum can from old takes less 95% less energy. There are also savings for recycling glass, PET plastic and more.

6. Glass can keep being recycled.

Recycled glass is as good as new glass. The quality doesn’t decrease as it does for some recycled products.

7. Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of the environment.

Batteries in the landfill eventually release harmful heavy metals such as mercury and lithium into the environment.

8. Recycling electronics keeps toxic materials out of landfills.

It’s amazing how many toxic materials are in computers and other electronics. Dumping them into landfills allows lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and other materials to be released into the environment.

9. Recycling makes more jobs than landfills.

When products are recycled, jobs are created to sort the recycled materials. There are also jobs with the manufacturers who reuse the recycled materials.

10. Recycling costs less than landfills.

This is a bit of a tricky one, as initial collection and sorting does cost more than putting all the trash in the landfill. However, communities can earn much of that back by selling the reclaimed materials to manufacturers, making the overall cost less.

Here are more resources to help you learn about why you should recycle:

How to Recycle Cell Phone Batteries

I had a problem the other day. I realized that the battery on my cell phone was swelling. That’s not a good sign. Easy enough to notice, as suddenly the back of my cell phone was popping open constantly. So I bought a new cell phone battery, and all appears to be well. Except I’ve got this battery I know you aren’t supposed to throw in the trash, although most people do. So I decided to look up how to recycle cell phone batteries.

It’s really easy to find a place to recycle them, although not everyone will have a place that’s close. Many office stores take them. Same for many Radio Shack locations. But if you’re in doubt, sites such as Call2Recycle and 1-800-Recycling make this really easy. All I had to do was hand the battery over at the front counter.

This works for many kinds of electronic waste, in fact, not just batteries. Some electronics have a fee associated with their recycling, but other items are free to recycle. I know paying to do the right thing with old electronics isn’t much fun, but it’s important. Most electronics really don’t belong in the trash. In fact, a recycling fee may be collected in California at the time of sale of certain monitors, rather than at the time of recycling.