The Maricopa Community Colleges and a national company called TerraCycle want to save the planet one pencil at a time.

Ten MCC schools are now part of the Writing Instrument Brigade, a program under TerraCycle, in which they box and ship used writing utensils to TerraCycle and receive a monetary donation in return. Since joining the program in early 2012, MCC has shipped more than 6,000 utensils to the organization.

With the used and abused pens and pencil, TerraCycle breaks them down and brings them back to life in the form of park benches, watering cans, and recycling bins. TerraCycle launched its recycling programs in 2007 and has since collected more than 2 billion pieces of waste from being discarded in landfills. Through the Writing Instrument Brigade, they have donated more than $3.5 million to charities and schools.

“We are 10 colleges, two skill centers and numerous education centers, all dedicated to educational excellence and to meeting the needs of businesses and the citizens of Maricopa County, Arizona,” said Chanda Fraulino, recycle program coordinator for MCC, in a statement. “The sustainability coordinators and several of our colleges collaboratively participate in the TerraCycle brigades. The best part about the Writing Instruments brigade is that we divert waste from the landfill while earning money to support student scholarships.”

TerraCycle has many arms reaching into the field of sustainability. They partner with companies like Sanford, who sponsors the Writing Instrument Brigade, and Frito-Lay, who sponsors another program called the Chip Bag Brigade.

Overall, there are 90,000 organizations who take part in the “Brigade” recycling and upcycling programs worldwide. MCC is one of 1,300 businesses and organizations who are a part of the Writing Instrument Brigade.

With the money coming in from recycling used utensils, MCC is planning to support the Maricopa Foundation for the Sustainability Scholarship fund. These scholarships will be awarded to a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sustainability or environmental science.

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