SAS 43 - Section 04
6 December 2018
Materials for Colored Pencils
Colored pencils are a commonly used art medium, but despite colored pencils being commonly used, many consumers are unaware of the actual materials that go into making colored pencils. Consumers have a general idea of the materials required to make colored pencils, such as wood and pigments, but they are unaware of many other materials required in the life cycle of a colored pencil. To fully grasp how a colored pencil is made, consumers should be aware of the main components that go into making colored pencils: fillers, colorants, binding materials, waxes, and wood. Through an analysis of the primary and secondary materials required to produce colored pencils, and how these materials are used during the lifetime cycle of the colored pencils, it can be observed how colored pencils are made and how their materials can negatively affect the environment.
Fillers, also known as extenders, are typically nonrenewable resources that go into the colored lead portion of colored pencils. There are three materials that are typically used as fillers for colored pencils: kaolin, talc, and chalk (Ellis and Yeh). Kaolin is a processed form of the mineral kaolinite, and because of this kaolin is considered a secondary material for colored pencils (“Kaolin”). Kaolinite, and by extension kaolin, is a finite organic material that needs to be extracted. During the extraction and processing of kaolinite, machinery is used which likely emits common greenhouse gases. In this way, kaolin being used as a material for colored pencils damages the environment. Another commonly used filler is talc, which is a processed form of a variety of silicate minerals (“Talc”). Talc, similarly to kaolin, must be derived from a mineral and is therefore a secondary material in the life cycle of colored pencils. Talc is also similar to kaolin since it needs to be extracted and processed, further adding to the machinery and greenhouse gases emitted by said machinery. The last commonly used filler is chalk, which is a refined form of limestone (“Chalk”). Because chalk comes from limestone, it is a secondary material. Chalk is different from kaolin and talc, however, since it is made from the shells of many organisms (“Chalk”). Chalk is a renewable resource, albeit not very sustainable, and is less harmful to the environment. The fillers are not directly harmful to the environment, but the processes required to obtain the fillers are what cause damage, mainly through the emission of greenhouse gases. Along with fillers, colorants are another portion of the colored lead portion of colored pencils.
Colorants are what allow colored pencils to have a multitude of color options available, they are another component for colored lead. Colorants are divided into three categories: pigments, dyes, and inks (“Dyes, Pigments, and Inks”). The colorants colored pencils use, however, are only pigments and dyes (Cato). Pigments are secondary materials that can be both synthetic and natural (“Dyes, Pigments and Inks”). Pigments, in general, are not harmful to environments, as long as they are used and disposed of properly. Dyes are also secondary materials, and can be synthetic or natural. Dyes and pigments are very similar, and in this respect neither of them are significantly harmful in the life cycle of colored pencils. Aside from greenhouse gas emissions, colorants are somewhat passive to the environment, in both the extraction and refinement processes. Colorants alone do not stick to paper or canvas very well, which is why another material in colored pencils is binding materials and waxes.
Binding materials and waxes are what allow the colored lead portion of colored pencils to stick well to paper or canvas. Without binding materials and waxes, the color shown would be faint and would quickly fade. The most commonly used binding material are cellulose ethers (Ellis and Yeh). Cellulose ethers are a secondary material. There are many variations of cellulose ethers, but cellulose ethers are typically are made from treating plant fibers with sodium hydroxide, and then adding etherifying agents (“What is Cellulose Ether?”). In order to produce cellulose ethers, many organic and synthetic compounds are needed, and generally speaking all the compounds are renewable and sustainable. Despite this, however, there is emission of toxic or harmful compounds, particularly carbon dioxide. For this very reason, the main binding material for colored pencils increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Waxes, when combined with binding materials, also improve the quality of colored pencils. There are three main waxes used for colored pencils: paraffin, beeswax, and carnauba wax (Cato). Paraffin is a petroleum based wax, and is therefore a secondary material for colored pencils (“Wax Facts”). The petroleum industry is known for emitting a significant amount of common greenhouse gases, and paraffin is made with byproducts formed in the petroleum industry (Bluestein and Rackley). Paraffin is directly tied to environmental damage. Beeswax is another wax, which requires little or no refinement, and because of this beeswax can be considered a primary material or a secondary material (“Wax Facts”). Bees constantly produce beeswax, and beeswax is renewable and generally sustainable. All round beeswax has a negligible impact on the environment, but is typically more difficult to obtain when compared to paraffin. Lastly, carnauba wax is another organic wax that comes from palm trees that grow in Brazil (“Wax Facts”). There is some refinement to be able to obtain carnauba wax, so carnauba wax is considered a secondary material. The refinement process includes drying fronds from the palm trees, extracting the carnauba wax, and removing impurities (“Wax Facts”). During the refinement process, there are no chemical additives that are used, and the only emissions that come from carnauba wax are from machinery used, like many materials other materials required to make colored pencils. Of all three waxes, paraffin is the least environmentally friendly, and is unfortunately commonly used as it is cheap to produce with byproducts produced in the petroleum industry. All the materials required to make the colored lead portion of colored pencils have been analyzed, all that is left to produce colored pencils is the casing.
Wood is almost always used as the material to make the casing for pencils and colored pencils. Companies generally do not specify which wood type is used for pencil casings, however it is known that wood is used in both pencils and colored pencils (Cook and Leidner). Crayola discusses the different molding processes required to get the pencil casings, in short pencil casings are split into half circular forms with a groove in the middle for the colored lead (“Can You Tell Me How?”). If responsibly handled, wood is a renewable and sustainable resource. Since wood is only molded into different shapes, wood is considered a primary resource. To receive the wood as a material, trees must be cut down and refined (“Lumber”). In the process to be able to use wood as a material, there are two sources of emission, the transportation of the wood, and the refinement of the wood. Both transportation and refinement require their own respective machinery, which leads to some sort of emission which causes harm to the environment. Despite the fact that using wood as a material can cause pollution to the environment through emissions, wood is still less harmful than other materials, such as paraffin for example. The combination of wood and all the components to make colored lead produces colored pencils, the next phase of the life cycle of colored pencils is distribution.
In order to distribute colored pencils, packaging is required. Because of this, generic packaging is included in the life cycle assessment of colored pencils. The most commonly used packaging material is cardboard carton (“Packaging”). Cardboard carton is comprised of mainly recycled paper, and is somewhat renewable. Over time the quality of the cardboard degrades and higher quality material must be added to compensate. Cardboard carton is significantly less damaging than other packaging materials, such as plastic (“Cardboard Recycling”). The packaging required for distribution of colored pencils ends the material life cycle of colored pencils. Although colored pencils have compostable components, mainly the casing, most will end up in a landfill.
As seen through a thorough analysis of all the primary and secondary materials required to make colored pencils, it can be seen that many of the materials need to be processed in particular ways, and some are nonrenewable. Because of this combination, many consumers are unaware of the possible negative effects colored pencils can have on the environment, and many will never become aware of this. To minimize the damage done to the environment by the materials from colored pencils, companies producing colored pencils should find substitute materials that are environmentally friendly, renewable, and sustainable.
Bluestein, Joel, and Jessica Rackley. “Coverage of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Petroleum Use under Climate Policy.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 24 Oct. 2017, www.c2es.org/document/coverage-of-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-petroleum-use-under-climate-policy/.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Packaging.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Jan. 2011, www.britannica.com/technology/packaging.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Chalk.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Oct. 2013, www.britannica.com/science/chalk.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Kaolin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Oct. 2015, www.britannica.com/science/kaolin.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Talc.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 Aug. 2018, www.britannica.com/science/talc.
“Can You Tell Me How Crayola Colored Pencils Are Made?” Crayola.com, Crayola, www.crayola.com/faq/your-business/can-you-tell-me-how-crayola-colored-pencils-are-made/.
“Cardboard Recycling: Environmental Impact – Matter Of Trust.” Matter Of Trust, 4 May 2017, matteroftrust.org/14395/cardboard-recycling-environmental-impact.
Cato, Jeremy. “Ingredients of Colored Pencils.” Our Pastimes, 15 Sept. 2017, ourpastimes.com/ingredients-of-colored-pencils-12503332.html.
Cook, David, and Jacob Leidner. "Composition for extruded pencil casings, and pencil casings and pencils made therefrom." U.S. Patent Application No. 09/799,642.
“Dyes, Pigments and Inks.” American Chemical Society, www.acs.org/content/acs/en/careers/college-to-career/chemistry-careers/dyes-pigments-ink.html.
Ellis, Margaret H, and M. B Yeh. “Categories of Wax-Based Drawing Media.” [CoOL], 11 Dec. 2008, 13:02:35 PST, cool.conservation-us.org/waac/wn/wn19/wn19-3/wn19-308.html.
“Lumber.” How Products Are Made, How Products Are Made, www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Lumber.html.
“Wax Facts.” Wax Facts, American Fuel & Petroleum Manufacturers, www.afpm.org/wax-facts/.
“What Is Cellulose Ether?” Cellulose Ethers/Calcium Formate/Redispersible Polymer Powder Manufacturer & Supplier – SIDLEY CHEMICAL CO., LTD, 13 May 2015, celluloseether.com/what-is-cellulose-ether/.
Professor Christina Cogdell
6 December 2018
Life Cycle of Coloured Pencils: Waste
Waxy pigment encased in wood glides smoothly across a pure white sheet of paper. What is it? A product none other than the popular coloured pencils. Coloured pencils come with varied qualities: wax based or oil-based and even the wood can be put into consideration. These qualities come from its primary components which includes the “lead,” wood casing, and a special adhesive. Of course, waste streams consisting of byproducts and pollution from pencil production exists. Greater sustainability can be achieved by utilizing recycled materials, using afforested wood during production, repurposing byproducts like sawdust, effectively reducing and containing pollutants, and burning alternative types of fuel during transportation, ultimately mitigating harmful environmental impacts.
Corporate laws and trade secrets keep the recipes of the materials and detailed information of their production factories confidential; thus, we cannot accurately guess the amount of waste that build up. The “lead” component of the coloured pencil is made up of a filler, colorant, binding materials, water, and wax; however, the ratios and exact raw materials that form each part cannot be determined due to trade secrets. The filler is composed of kaolin, talc, and chalk. The binder is made of cellulose ethers and vegetable gums. Water is mixed in with the ingredients including various pigments; the amount of water used and possible byproducts from creating the lead mixture is unknown.
To scale, Crayola produces “600 million Crayola Colored Pencils” (Crayola) annually and with this we can imagine how much wax is required to produce these pencils and how much waste we can prevent. Imagine the amount of discarded coloured pencils that are tossed into landfills. Colored pencils are generally not recyclable; however, upcycling the components of a coloured pencil like reusing old wood would immensely help in the reduction of waste. Wax is one other part that needs to be taken into consideration for our waste equation.
Paraffin wax is extracted from various crude oils “present in the world [which contains] wax contents of up to 32.5%” (Rehan, et al.). This extraction comes with transportation fees and emissions to an oil refinery. Burning a gallon of gasoline would range from 12.7 to 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide emission (EIA). And a “typical large refinery [would] process 8-10 [millions of gallons per day] of centrally collected ‘dirty’ process wastewater…” (Kujawski). There are numerous ways we can reduce these numbers: switching to alternative fuels, alternative wax substitutes, or an increase in budget for treatment facilities to become even more efficient.
Manufacturing coloured pencils derive their energy from secondary fuels; however, alternative fuels, like using hydropower, may sound environmentally friendly but still produce many harmful effects. Secondary fuels are created from fuels that have been chemically or physical processes. One example of a secondary fuel is electricity produced from hydropower plants; electricity is produced from running water that has been impounded in a dam that flows into a turbine. Power that comes from dams may sound environmentally friendly but take into consideration things like algae forming and producing exuberant amounts of greenhouse gases would be a huge demerit. Knowing this kind of information, perhaps alternative fuels would not be the most optimal solution. “In the last two decades the EPA and other national and international agencies have placed increasingly strict regulations on the manufacture and use of synthetic colorants” (Reife). Dyes and pigments follow a plan of reducing the amount of wastes because the pollutants of dyes and pigments damage water sources. Having plans to regulate production and to remediate pollutants is an effective solution to reducing waste. Another major component of coloured pencils is the wood casing; lumber generates heaps of waste and this needs effective design plans and methods to reduce its byproducts like sawdust and wood chips.
The wood used for coloured pencils is usually the California Incense-Cedar; this wood is processed through sawmills which results in wasteful sawdust and wood chips that could be repurposed. Sawmills, past and present, currently burn or dispose of wooden residuals. Products like “pulp-quality chips requires a sufficient volume of material to justify the investment” (Lutz). Areas like Oregon and Uruguay create pulp mills to expand the pulp industry, ultimately providing a use for chips. Sawdust is sold as animal bedding and bark or coarsely ground wood is turned to hog fuel used in boilers. Remnant wood wastes can be used in energy production plants, burning the wood to generate steam which would provide electricity. “Only around half of a log gets turned into lumber at a sawmill,” (Lutz) yet we have found multitudes of methods to reduce our leftovers.
Using renewable sources of energy will ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector and in turn the transportation sector. Wood is derived from forests and greenhouse gas emissions for “wood‐based ethanol and electricity were higher for feedstocks sourced from afforested than reforested land” (Dwivedi, et al.). This research done on afforested and reforested wood shows that using woody feedstocks sourced from afforested land would help mitigate the amount of greenhouse gas pollutants “without any additional cost.” Why should we limit this to the wood and not extend our sustainability efforts towards the production process of coloured pencils?
Crayons are monopolized by Crayola, this made it easier to create a solar farm for the energy consumption for crayon production; coloured pencils and their numerous producers should step up and follow lead. The solar farm in Ohio consists of 26,000 solar panels which would provide enough power to produce a third of their 3 billion crayons a year. This also means that “Greenhouse gas emissions are being cut by 1,900 tons annually” (Energy.gov). Though we may not have exact numbers, creating a plant akin to Crayola’s solar farm for the entirety of the production process of coloured pencils is bound to have a greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than 1,900 tons; however, we must also take into consideration the cons of solar power plants. Evidently, more tests and research need to be done to achieve better sustainability goals.
Coloured pencils as researched and presented in this paper, is a secretive product in the sense of its creation process. Even when presented the materials that make up coloured pencils, frustrating enough, the details regarding those materials used in the actual production could not be found. Without knowing a more detailed process in creating a coloured pencil, this paper is left short of information. Information that may have not even been recorded like the total net worth of waste for coloured pencils leaves with this paper with heavy research in actual materials that are related the the coloured pencils. Sources used could not be directly and factually applied to specific data in pencil production. I could only infer from the sources and discuss the type or kinds of byproducts. In addition, the time constraint given to prepare and write this paper (and the two week unexpected break) greatly limited in the amount of research, writing, and discussion one could do. Generally speaking, however, the wooden casing of coloured pencils strives to be sustainable yet the methods and production of the lead could be altered.
“Can You Tell Me How Crayola Colored Pencils Are Made?” Crayola.com, www.crayola.com/faq/your-business/can-you-tell-me-how-crayola-colored-pencils-are-made/.
Cato, Jeremy. “Ingredients of Colored Pencils.” Our Pastimes, 15 Sept. 2017, ourpastimes.com/ingredients-of-colored-pencils-12503332.html.
“Crude oil Petroleum Product.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Oct. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/science/crude-oil
Rehan Mohammad, Nizami Abdul-Sattar, Taylan Osman, Omar Al-Sasi Basil, Demirbas Ayhan. “Determination of wax content in crude oil.” 17 Jun 2016. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10916466.2016.1169287?scroll=top&needAccess=true Dwivedi, Puneet, and Madhu Khanna. “Abatement Cost of Wood‐Based Energy Products at the Production Level on Afforested and Reforested Lands.” GCB Bioenergy, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 2 June 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcbb.12199
“How much carbon dioxide is produced from burning gasoline and diesel fuel?” www.eia.gov, https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=307&t=11.
“Green Initiatives.” Crayola.com, www.crayola.com/about-us/company/green-initiatives.aspx.
Graff, Stephen. “Crayola's True Color Shines Through: Green.” Energy.gov, 2010, www.energy.gov/articles/crayolas-true-color-shines-through-green.
"How It's Made: Colored Pencils". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Youtube, 20 April 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-b2q3jQ414
Kujawski, Dave. “New Trends in Oil Refinery Wastewater Reclamation.” 12 April 2009, https://www.waterworld.com/articles/2009/04/new-trends-in-oil-refinery-wastewater-reclamation.html.
Lutz, Jack. “Sawmills: Chopping Down Waste.” « Recycling « Waste Management World, 22 Oct. 2015, waste-management-world.com/a/sawmills-chopping-down-waste.
“Pencil.” How Products Are Made, www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Pencil.html. Reife, Abraham, and Harold S. Freeman. “Environmental Chemistry of Dyes and Pigments.” Wiley.com, 5 Jan. 1996, www.wiley.com/en-us/Environmental+Chemistry+of+Dyes+and+Pigments-p-978047159273.
“US20030022962A1 - Composition for Extruded Pencil Casings, and Pencil Casings and Pencils Made Therefrom.” Google Patents, Google, patents.google.com/patent/US20030022962A1/en.
“WAX FACTS.” Wax Facts, www.afpm.org/wax-facts/.