Saturday, April 07, 2007

What do family restaurants do with used crayons?

Who's asking: John McFetridge, Toronto, ON

John's complete question: "Often, when I take my kids to restuarants (especially chain family places), the server will give us a few brand new crayons in a plastic bag or little cardboard box. We really appreciate this and my kids use the crayons -- usually just a little and we leave them behind. But everytime we get brand new crayons. So, what do these restaurants do with the partly used crayons?"

This is one of those things it never occurred to me to wonder about -- but once it did, the question troubled me a great deal. Growing up in a household of five kids within a four-year range (the sixth came later), I learned to take crayons seriously, and can still tell you the coloring habits of each of my siblings in detail.

Kids today are spoiled in the crayon area. For one thing, Crayola now makes a box of 96 crayons, which Claire has already heard me whine about -- 96! Who needs 96 crayons? Sixty-four were enough for my generation, dammit. (I have it on good authority, however, that the in-box sharpener still doesn't work very well.) The crayons also come in all kinds of metallic, fluorescent and pastel colors that were not available during my childhood, and you can even custom-order boxes with multiple crayons of one color or another. (This would have saved my family a lot of fighting over the black crayon. Then again, we would not have learned those valuable negotiating, bullying, and hair-pulling skills.)

But Crayola also makes something really cool, which gets back to the answer to this question: a crayon maker that allows kids to recycle used crayons into new ones, and combine colors into new shades. (People who might buy me birthday or Christmas presents, take note: I want one.)

Once I discovered this, I was hoping to find that some employee of Friendly's or Denny's or Ricetta's had the happy assignment of recycling used crayons, cranking new ones out of the Crayon Maker in some back room off the kitchen.

But no. Last night at Ricetta's, where we celebrated Grace Lechner's birthday, I continued my informal poll on the fate of the giveaway crayons.

"If they're in good shape, we reuse them," the server said. "But usually we just throw them away. And of course, you're welcome to take them with you."

The green lifestyle, surely, should include recycling crayons... maybe some of those carbon credits can go toward installing Crayon Makers in every IHoP.

And before I forget: happy birthdays today to Maeve and Pam, and many happy returns. Spring is coming any day now.


JIM LAMB said...

O my god! You wanted a machine that deliberately melted crayons! We had enough in the day that got melted accidentally. Hot air floor vents and stove tops don't get along with crayons.
Didn't we always have a big enough mess with Play-Doh?
Everyone at the Barnes and Noble enjoyed your story about the Spring snowstorm, particularly our refugee Down Easters. A lot of local people here have spent time living around Brunswick and Bath.
But before I get too smug. I woke up this morning and it was snowing here in Virginia Beach. I hope it doesn't last long, because I have to drive to Peggy's later.
It must be global warming! Call Al Gore maybe he wants to sponsor another treaty to destroy the U. S.

Kathleen said...

In our family those restaurant crayons usually end up at the bottom of my purse. The coolest innovation in the crayon world I think is that they no longer melt the way they used to. You can leave them in a hot car without worry. Oh and did you know magic markers don't dry out without their caps and play-do stays moist!

I'm going to have to investigate that crayon maker.

Here's a question. Why was the light blue smelly marker mango scented? I have yet to see a blue mango. -Kathleen

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I thought that Play Dough didn't dry out only because we live in the tropics! Here it actually gets too wet to use if you leave the lid off. You mean that Play Dough in a dryer climate doesn't dry out anymore? What an amazing achievement!


AnswerGirl said...

Thanks to the last commenter, who says that they probably throw them out because of hygiene issues. I don't accept anonymous comments on this blog, and try to make that as clear as I can. You don't have to sign in with Google, but you do need to at least add your name or initials to your post, as "CFK" (my friend Carla Forbes-Kelly) does above. Anonymity is the scourge of the Internet.

kelsey said...

Instead of buying a costly crayon maker you can take a muffin tin or a candy/ soap making tin, chop up pieces of old broken crayons or restaurant crayons and melt them in the oven. then, let them sit untill they harden and and have fun, new, shaped eco friendly crayons.

Northstar702 said...

Restaurants are usually throwing away used crayons for hygiene reasons. Think of the customer view: If a restaurant is saving cost by re-using crayons, what other short cut is the management taking with hygiene? It can definitely look bad, even if it's an illogical fear/belief on the part of the restaurant guest.

Northstar702 said...

And why should restaurants bother reusing crayons when they can buy restaurant crayon packs for like 10 cents each? It's not worth the shortcut in this case!

Donna Bird said...

Most restaurants will throw them away. We suggested to them to donate them to schools, daycares or Children's hospitals or nursing home. They are actually thrown away into our landfills. Now we can recycle Cans, Plastics, paper, glass, but we can't recycle crayons that are much needed in our schools. As for hygiene. schools sends over 50 crayons at the end of school year home with each kids, Here is a funny thing, at the beginning of the school year, Kids has a class list of what is needed for their grand level classroom, and it is shared among all the students in that classroom for nine months, My grand daughter has 18 kids in her classroom, each kid brings in a pack of crayons, and they are thrown in to one big basket, and at end of the school year, the teacher splits the crayons home. 18 kids touch them for 9 months, (vs 1). Steam heat to sterile them since they don't melt any more. how about that?