Recycle, Reduce, Reuse! It’s easy and fun to get kids involved in the many small things we can do everyday to help our natural environment thrive. First, it’s important for kids to understand the seriousness of climate change and the importance of making little changes to the way we do things. There are a few (outdated) things we learned back in school, when recycling first came of age, like:
- Plastic is bad – paper is good!
- Collecting aluminum cans pays!
- Dumping motor oil is a criminal offense!
- Never use Styrofoam! It takes 500 years to break down in a landfill.
But recycling has come a long way in the last decade and things aren’t so black & white. Some important things to note are:
Plastics, including grocery bags, can be recycled these days.
Types of plastics are numbered by recycling experts: for example, plastic bags are plastic #2 and #4, requiring different machinery and processes to break down.
Plastic bags are often controversial.
In some communities, they have been banned altogether. Your best option may be specific recycling programs that focus exclusively on them. Many grocery stores collect plastic bags while some city recycling programs offer plastic bag pick-up or drop-off programs.
Paper, perceived as environmentally friendly, is actually more complicated to recycle than you might think.
Shredding paper reduces the quality and subsequently the value of the paper. Shredding paper turns it from high grade (letterhead and printer paper) to mixed grade, which includes telephone books and magazines.
Paper food containers pose another problem.
Your pizza box may have a recycling symbol on it, but the grease may be an issue for recycling machinery.
Many liquids can be handled at your recycling center.
Used motor oil is also accepted when placed in its original container or an empty plastic 1-gallon milk or water bottle.
You can even recycle Styrofoam.
Today, Styrofoam (Plastic #6) can be recycled with special machinery. Check with your local recycling center. Sent to the landfill, it does take half a millennium to decompose.
No recycling program works more effectively than reducing waste and reusing or re-purposing items as appropriate.
Parents can play a pivotal role by changing their family culture to one of reducing waste through these simple suggestions. Reducing waste can be fun and healthy.
- Buy a stainless steel water bottle for every family member. Bling them with notions of your choice as a family art project. While decorating them you can discuss how plastic water bottles are wasteful. You can even help them do the math.
- Start a home composting bin and, in time, plant a tree using the compost as fertilizer.
- Eliminate grocery store bags from your lives by purchasing and using canvas bags for all shopping.
- Go paperless on all your accounts. Your daily mail call will be reduced, too. Let your kids know about the change you made.
- Cut up old clothes for cleaning rags instead of using paper towels. Get the kids involved by having them cut the rags into fun shapes.
- Investigate the use of natural cleaners. Kids might enjoy making the mixtures and actually help with the cleaning. Several websites can give parents ideas.