For kids who don’t have much to call their own, an item as simple as a plastic pencil box can become a special treasure chest. This year, hundreds of children in Chandler, Ariz. are receiving pencil boxes from Intel, but they will hold more than just pencils, erasers and glue. They also contain a story about how creativity and dedication can change the way kids think about the environment.
A team of Intel employees helped design and manufacture thousands of pencil boxes using sustainable methods and local business partnerships. They started with more than 1,500 pounds of discarded polystyrene reels collected from the Chandler factory waste stream.
The team secured a Sustainability in Action grant from Intel to fund their effort, which they called the Grave to Cradle (G2C) project. Through the Sustainability in Action program, Intel employees can apply for a grant to pursue their ideas in environmental sustainability.
“The goals of this project were to repurpose Intel’s clean plastic waste stream, to help provide local students with the resources they need, and to find paths to zero waste,” said Anthony Kong, one of the team members.
The majority of the recycled plastic once formed reels that held yards of microprocessor components arranged in plastic sleeves – much like a motion picture film around a reel. The reels were first sent to a Glendale, Ariz. organization called Gompers Habilitation Center, which offers vocational training for people with developmental disabilities. Gompers removed labels from the reels so they could be ground into small chips.
Nearby Tempe business Plastics General Polymers completed the grinding process. Terry Weir, who handles PGP’s business development, said his company charged Intel only for the cost of labor to operate the grinding machines.
The next local destination for the ground plastic was Fiesta Plastics in Mesa, Ariz. The Intel team worked with Fiesta Plastics to design the mold, which required several iterations. Finally, the plastic chips were transformed into pencil boxes with the Intel logo on the lid and the messages “Sustainability in Action” and “Made in AZ of Recycled Materials” on the bottom.
Kong said that, aside from the recycling component, keeping the manufacturing process local was key to making the project truly sustainable. The pencil boxes each come with a bookmark that tells the story of the pencil boxes’ origins, along with kid-friendly tips to help the environment.
“The best thing is the kids will be able to learn from it,” Kong said. “We can go to classrooms. And the boxes were made in Arizona, not overseas. It’s neat for the kids.”
Intel has donated the pencil boxes to several local organizations, including Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods (ICAN), Kiwanis Nuevo Club, Chandler Education Foundation, and Fans Across America, which aids homeless children.
According to the team’s analysis of the pilot project, recycling the 1,500 pounds of polystyrene avoided 19 million tons of CO2 emissions – that’s equivalent to the effect of 487 trees over 10 years.
KEYWORDS: Corporate Social Responsibility, Recycling, Volunteering, Community, Engagement, Volunteerism, Sustainable Solutions