After five years of collecting more than 250 pounds of pens and markers, Joliet Junior College and its Sustainability Committee are recycling the massive collection to Terracycle, a company that prides itself on both recycling and upcycling almost any form of waste.
In addition, JJC’s efforts will also make a social impact: Terracycle rewards its contributors using a point system that equals donations to three charitable organizations: Charity: Water, Carbon Fund, and Eco Schools USA.
For example, according to JJC student sustainability worker Kris Dubenic, six points toward Charity: Water equals a week’s worth of clean water to someone in need in Africa or South Asia. Donating one point to Carbon Fund would go toward reducing two pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. Eco Schools USA donations will help fund sustainability initiatives in higher education.
With more than 250 pounds of pens and markers in total, JJC will have approximately 24,000 points to put toward a good cause.
“What’s been so great about this is that we can say that everybody at JJC has helped contribute to this cause,” said Maria Anna Rafac, JJC sustainability coordinator.
The effort began at JJC in 2011 through the JJC Sustainability Committee, when Economics Professor Margie Cepon left about a dozen bins around Main Campus and the Romeoville Campus for pen and marker collection.
“People responded, and this effort really caught on fast,” Cepon said. “Departments all across campus have been on board since the beginning. We’re very excited it’s gotten this far.”
As the collection grew, Rafac stored the massive assortment. To date, there are more than 20 boxes in total. Rafac and Cepon like to laugh thinking about the enormous pile, because over the course of five years, Rafac’s gotten a few strange looks, along with the question: “Why do you have so many pens and markers?”
To demonstrate how significant of an amount it was, Rafac, Cepon, Dubenic and members of the Student Sustainability Union, dumped all the writing utensils on the ground and formed a line across the C-Concourse on Main Campus. The line stretched more than 70 feet.
Now that these pens and markers will be recycled, Terracycle will either repurpose them into other writing utensils, or upcycle them into bins.
Collecting markers and pens will eventually become more efficient, according Dubenic. In the future, he’d like to expand the collection to local businesses and other community organizations.
“I mean, if collecting three pens equals giving someone in need water for a week – why not continue to build what we have going here?” Dubenic said. “We’re so excited and motivated now.”
For more information about sustainability efforts at JJC, please visit www.jjc.edu/sustainablecampus.