What happens to restaurant crayons? This dad found out and decided to do something about it.

One person's trash is another person's great idea.

Ever wonder what happens to the crayons they give kids in restaurants?

You know the ones I'm talking about. They're the crayons that sometimes come with a placemat bearing the likeness of a chain restaurant's mascot.

But what happens to those crayons after the meal ends and the family hops back into their car? In a lot of places, they just get tossed out. That's right — straight into the trash! Seems a bit wasteful, doesn't it?


Restaurant crayons' purpose are presumably to serve as an offering to the culinary gods in order to stave off pre-meal temper tantrums. Photo via iStock.

Bryan Ware had an idea for all those discarded crayons. What if they could find a second life?

In 2011, while Bryan and his family were celebrating his 40th birthday at a local restaurant, his sons were busy doing what kids do: coloring. That's when he wondered aloud, "I wonder what happens to these crayons after we leave if we don't take them."

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

He asked the server and learned that the crayons — even ones that were barely or not even used — got thrown away. Here's how his website describes what happened then:

"Bryan was shocked and saddened to find out that any crayons put on the table, whether slightly used or not even touched, had to be thrown away and eventually ended up in the landfill. Bryan took those crayons with him that night. He was convinced that the life of restaurant crayons didn't have to end there. It became his personal challenge to find a creative way to recirculate the endless supply of free materials and bring the Arts to children everywhere."

Fast forward a couple of years, and Ware's personal challenge came to life as The Crayon Initiative.

The wax used to make crayons is (generally) not biodegradable. That is, it'll be around for — well — longer than any of us.

The Crayon Initiative website estimates that somewhere between 45,000 and 75,000 pounds of broken crayons wind up in landfills in the U.S. each year. So they work to divert crayons that would otherwise be headed to a landfill, recycling them for use in children's hospitals instead.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

The Crayon Initiative collects unwanted crayons and melts them down, turning them into fresh crayons.

They start by melting crayons into hot wax. The wax is strained and poured into custom molds.

GIF from The Crayon Initiative YouTube page.

What do you end up with? Fresh new crayons ready for fun.

These crayons are a bit larger than what you'd find in a standard pack of Crayolas and for good reason. With the help of an occupational therapist, The Crayon Initiative decided to mold their repurposed crayons thicker than average, making them easier to grip for younger kids and those with special needs. They're also more triangle-like rather than circular.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

Since 2013, The Crayon Initiative has helped deliver more than 2,000 boxes of crayons to hospitals across California.

This month, Ware plans to make his first Crayon-Initiative-specific trip out of state when he delivers crayons to a hospital in New York. With the help of some volunteers, The Crayon Initiative aims to donate 10,000 packs by the end of the year!

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

The project keeps growing, too, bringing joy to kids with every new pack.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

Interested in helping out? The Crayon Initiative has a list of ways you can volunteer and donate on their website.

More

There's nothing like a good reunion story to get you misty in the ol' tear ducts. Kate Howard, the managing editor of Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, shared a story of randomly running into the dog she used to foster on Twitter. You know all those dog reunion movies? The ones with names like A Dog's Hope and A Dog's Sloppy Kiss? The ones that make you cry buckets no matter how hard you think your heart is? Well, this is that, but in real life.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The great thing about American democracy is the separation of powers. The federal government has rights, states have rights, counties have rights, cities have rights, and we, as people, have rights, too.

Heck, even animals have some rights in the good ol' U S of A.

The president of the United States is not a king or a dictator so a team of U.S. mayors, led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, are asking to go over his head to negotiate directly at next month's UN climate change conference in Santiago, Chile.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / James Van Der Beek

About one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, although it is believed the number might be higher because many miscarriages occur before the woman knows she is pregnant. Miscarriage is actually quite common, yet many people who've had one feel alone, partly because there's still a taboo around talking about it. In order to reduce the stigma surrounding the loss, James Van Der Beek opened up about the struggles him and his wife, Kimberly, experienced.

The Van Der Beeks, who have been married since 2010, have five children and one on the way. In a pre-taped segment on "Dancing with the Stars," Van Der Beek announced that his family will be welcoming a new baby. But the segment gave us a more personal look as Van Der Beek revealed they've experienced three miscarriages as well. "We've had five kids and three miscarriages," Van Der Beek told his dance partner, Emma Slater. "Miscarriage is something that people don't really talk about, and we wanted to recognize that it happens to people. We wanted to destigmatize that as much as we possibly could."

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Capital One

It was around Christmas 2018 and Jean Simpkins, 79, was looking out the window of her new three-bedroom apartment. Eleven floors above Washington, D.C., the grandmother of two gazed out at the lights of the city and became overwhelmed with gratitude. "The only thing I could say," Simpkins remembers, "was 'Thank you, Father.'"

Almost a year later, Simpkins still can't help but look at the apartment as a miracle — one she desperately needed. Fifteen years ago, when her grandson was born, she became his primary caregiver. Six years later, when her granddaughter was four, Simpkins was awarded full custody of her, too. She's spent the time since trying to give her grandchildren the life she knows they deserve, which has been difficult on a fixed income. On top of that, Simpkins worried that the neighborhood the family resided in wasn't the best influence on her kids. Something had to change.

Then she learned about Plaza West, a new development created by Mission First housing that would reserve 50 of its apartments specifically for families in which a grandparent or other older adult was raising children who were related to them. The waiting list, Simpkins says, was daunting. There are a great deal of grandfamilies in the D.C. area and she was sure it might be years before she got the call. But soon after applying, she was offered a choice between a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom apartment. She accepted the latter, sight unseen. She knew that each of her grandchildren needed space of their own.

Keep Reading Show less
Future Edge
True
Capital One