Pen Centre to host Card Cycle Challenge

Photo Credit: Christian Wiediger

Photo Credit: Christian Wiediger

The Pen Centre is challenging local artistic talent to build a team to create a masterpiece using recycled gift cards with a chance to win big money.

Artists in Niagara schools are invited to get creative to plan and design a one of a kind art piece using mostly recycled gift cards and a few recycled items. This is the first time The Pen Centre (TPC) has offered this exciting opportunity called The Pen Centre Gift Card Cycle Challenge for students in hopes of raising awareness around recycling and sustainability. According to Helen Edwards, marketing director for TPC, the idea began a few years ago when a Fonthill group called the Fonthill Nurdles approached the administration about the number of gift cards that end up in landfills. As they inquired further into the issue they found out that even though the card may be made of recycled materials not all municipalities can recycle the gift cards.

“[The gift cards] were still just being tossed out. If you think about how many billions of gift cards are out there, it broke our hearts. Shopping centres, as a whole, are a big producer of those so we thought we are going to turn this around and find a way they can be recycled properly,” said Edwards.

This started the gift card collection program. The community can bring old gift cards to customer service at TPC where they are then sent to a third party.

“We ensure they go to a company called Terracycle. They turn them into things like lawn furniture and other outdoor products and they are repurposed,” said Edwards.

Now with this challenge they are hoping to recycle and reuse even more gift cards. The participants are encouraged to start their own gift cards collection from family and friends to make their artwork.

“We really figured if we could inspire them to go out and get a collection as well, whether it be in their school or from their friends and family, we figure everybody benefits from that,” said Edwards.

To participate in the challenge, classrooms and/or school teams will fill out an application and provide a design sketch when the site goes live on Thursday, January 16, 2020. The applications and design sketches are due by March 1, 2020. The Pen Centre will then notify the design teams that they can start to create their art using their collected gift cards from the community and observing the rules of the challenge. Then they will go on display at TPC to be judged and voted on by the community.

There will be three categories: elementary, secondary and post-secondary. The final judging will be done in May. The team that wins in each category will receive $1,000 for the team and $1,000 for their school.

This challenge is a great opportunity for classrooms or groups of artists to create something spectacular.

“We are hoping that teachers use it as an opportunity that if they know they have some students that are really strong when it comes to arts, they can inspire them to pull a team together.  This is a great way for a classroom to do a project to unite everybody for a common goal,” said Edwards.

Not only is this challenge keeping gift cards out of landfills, it is promoting creativity and bringing the community together through art and environmental awareness.

“For the community really the biggest hope is that it is going to highlight the amazing talent we have in the community ranging from a six year old to a university student that could be 40 to 50 years old because I think that is a strong part of who we are in St. Catharines,” said Edwards. “For the mall it is really getting the message across that we are trying to do our part to help the planet and the environment to get these gift cards out of [landfills] and if it inspires other people to think that way as well that’s the icing on the cake for us.”

Edwards and TPC have issued the challenge. Now it is time for Niagara students to put their best artistic skills to the test.

Visit the microsite at on or after Thursday, January 16, 2020 for more information and the application form needed to enter this creative challenge.

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