Does having to throw away something plastic but perhaps unrecyclable make you uneasy, especially single- or short-term-use items? Plastic drinking straws, for example, were once thought to be wonderful innovations because of their apparent cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacture. But when you consider that, globally, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced, half of which is for such disposable items, blithely discarding that straw starts to loom a little larger in significance (and, ultimately, cost). The plastic problem makes many among The New Century School community uncomfortable, too, so TNCS is doing something about it!
Head of School Alicia Danyali has enrolled TNCS as a participant in Crayola’s ColorCycling Program, which allows K–12 students to collect and repurpose used markers of any brand. This program also offers classroom opportunities for emphasizing each individual’s capacity for protecting the Earth. In fact, says TNCS Art Teacher Jenny Miller, “I steer away from markers or any other individually plastic encased art product for the very reason of unnecessary waste. I will investigate any other ways that we can practice sustainability in art class.”
It’s good to note, though, that the Crayola company is implementing ColorCycling and other green initiatives, such as “using 100% reforested wood for colored pencils . . . and recycling ground water through [their] crayon cooling process.” How are the colorcycled markers repurposed? Into fuel!
Crayola conducted extensive research into various new and emerging technologies that would allow the company to repurpose its markers and found the most efficient and beneficial solution at this time is the plastic to energy process, which allows the company to repurpose the entire marker. If a classroom recycles 193 markers, that is enough to move a city bus for 3 miles.
For the marker program, all we have to do, TNCS community, is bring our “dead soldiers”—again, any brand—to TNCS, where they will be collected in a specially designated box and kept in the art room. TNCS students will count them and pack them up for shipping—and Crayola even pays the shipping costs!
And voilà—TNCS is an “eco-cool school”!
Most of us are well aware that plastic waste is a huge environmental concern and a growing problem for future generations, but it never hurts to read the plain, if pretty horrifying, facts.
• Plastics impair human health. Plastics contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have been demonstrated to interfere with human endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurodevelopment systems. The long-term effects of these EDCs are still being investigated, and researchers are uncovering other insidious effects all the while.
• Plastics damage the environment. All the plastic so far produced is still with us in some form because it takes 500 years for plastic to decompose. Recycling plastic is not always easy or possible to do, and what doesn’t get recycled winds up in landfills, a clearly unsustainable practice at close to 30 million tons per year (just in the United States!). However, incinerating plastic is an even worse proposition, as burning plastic causes it to release EDCs and other toxins into the air, polluting it and adding to the human bioaccumulated burden. It also gives off CO2, contributing to global warming. And then there’s plastic litter that ultimately finds its way into waterways, polluting the ocean and inducing a cascade of effects on the environment and on wildlife.
Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of life because of their sheer convenience, but we are now reckoning the hidden costs. Programs like ColorCycling not only help start to address the problem, but also increase awareness that there is a problem—a marker is such a seemingly innocent thing, after all . . . until the magic wears off.