Key Collection Unlocks Inspiring Environmental Programs

Nov 28 2016

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SCARCE is known for collecting certain things – books, school supplies, crayons – but we also have a handful of lesser-known collection projects. One is our Keys for Conservation collection. It embodies all that SCARCE teaches: education, recycling, and conservation. Plus, it supports a good cause.

Keys for Conservationkeys-for-conservation -collection-project

Keys for Conservation asks you to donate your old, unused keys to support SCARCE’s environmental education and rescue projects.

Keys for Conservation collection is a great project for groups that wish to support SCARCE outside of our volunteer program. Everyone has old keys lying around – perhaps from an old car, home, or who knows what. Collecting keys is simple:

  • Uses little space – essential in crowded classrooms or for groups without a dedicated meeting space
  • No need to buy anything or donate money

All you have to do is make a collection bin. Large, clear plastic snack containers such as pretzel bins work well. Then tell everyone to clean out their drawers and bring in their keys.

How Does a Keys for Conservation Collection Help SCARCE?

Keys for Conservation collections are a simple fundraiser. SCARCE takes the keys we receive to a scrap metal recycler, who pays us for the metal scrap. First, we use the help of volunteers to sort the keys. They remove key rings and then use a big magnet to divide the ferrous keys (typically steel) from the non-ferrous keys (typically brass). By separating the keys, we are able to get a better price for them.

SCARCE uses the money we get from recycling keys to fund our book rescue and help fund our environmental education programs in classrooms and the community. Our book rescue helps hundreds of schools while diverting tons (literally) of waste from the landfill. Our environmental programs help residents, schools, towns, and businesses trim their waste, protect water quality, and conserve energy.

How Does a Keys for Conservation Collection Help the Planet?


Kennecott Utah Open Pit Copper Mine. So big it can be seen from space.

The keys that SCARCE collects are ultimately recycled at a scrap metal facility. Metals are a finite resource. However, they are infinitely recyclable. Recycled metal requires far fewer resources than new (“virgin”) material. Copper, the main component of brass, requires 90% less energy to recycle than it does to dig up and process new copper ore.

Metals come from ores that must be mined and refined – a process that requires a lot of energy and water and causes local environmental destruction.   Most ores, including copper and iron used in keys, are mined in open-pit mines. Some mining is still done in closed, underground mines. There are many environmental concerns of mining. Copper mining causes significant concern over effects on local water quality. In 2014, a copper mine in Canada had a breach in it’s tailings pond that caused a ban on using water from affected rivers.

Development of mines is controversial for these reasons. Save the Boundary Waters is a current campaign organized by local residents in Minnesota that oppose the development of a copper mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They don’t want to risk the negative effects of a copper mine impacting America’s most-visited wilderness area. The more brass, copper, and iron that is recycled, the less the need for additional mines that threaten our water and natural areas.

Get Started!

Contact us if you’re interested in doing a Keys for Conservation collection for SCARCE.



European Copper Institute Copper Mining and Production
Old Mines Still Plague Montana’s Clark Fork
Save the Boundary Waters
In Villages near Africa’s Largest Copper Mine, You can Smell and Taste the Pollution
Mount Polley Mine to Reopen 2 years after Tailings Pond Disaster
EPA is Moving to Designate Contaminated Nevada Copper Mine a Superfund Site
Copper Recycling and Sustainability


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