Used crayons find a new life at the Danville-based nonprofit The Crayon Initiative. Since 2011, the all-volunteer organization has donated more than 125,000 upcycled packs of crayons to children’s hospitals across the United States.
The Crayon Initiative works with hospitals in 33 states including some of the largest in Northern and Central California:
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford
Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center
Valley Children's Hospital
and more than 130 other hospitals across the US
Every month, hundreds of volunteers sort used crayons by color so they can be melted down and remanufactured. The new crayons are packaged and palletized before being shipped to hospitals throughout the U.S. One of the sorting volunteers overheard founder Bryan Ware mention how much he could use a forklift and connected him with Toyota Material Handling of Northern California (TMH).
Building a Better Crayon
The Crayon Initiative collects broken and used crayons from restaurants, schools and homes, melts them down and re-manufacturers them into new crayons for art programs at children’s hospitals. Used crayons can’t be sent as-is due to the risk of germ transfer from the paper wrapping. The melting process used by The Crayon Initiative kills any bacteria or viruses that may have been present on the original crayon.
Ware used his background in manufacturing, packaging and product design to make a crayon that could be enjoyed by children of nearly any age or physical ability. After consulting with an occupational therapist, Ware developed a triangular-shaped crayon that’s slightly thicker than one you might buy at the store. The larger crayons are easier for kids to grip, and the triangle shape keeps them from rolling off a table or tray.
More than 125,000 crayon packs have been given to hospital art programs since the program began donating just over three years ago. In 2018 so far, The Crayon Initiative has shipped more than 75,000 packs of crayons.
“Our warehouse is a street-level dock, so any inbound or outbound shipments had to be on a truck with a lift gate which caused extra expense and delays,” Ware said. “Now that we have the forklift, we can put everything on a pallet and load it up on the truck.”
Their forklift, a Toyota Core IC Cushion, helps The Crayon Initiative workers get more done and spend more of their money supplying kids with crayons than paying shipping fees.
The Crayon Initiative also runs team-building events which require the shipping and storing of pallets. So TMH also supplied The Crayon Initiative with a warehouse racking system to free up space in their warehouse and giving them the needed room to grow.