America Recycles Day was yesterday… but I think that should be every day, don’t you? If each and every one of us take baby steps in reducing, reusing, and recycling, it could make a huge difference.
Just visualize this: the U.S. disposes enough trash each day to fill 50,000 garbage trucks with 18,000 pounds of trash in each. Crazy. The EPA estimates that Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal waste last year, of which approximately 34% was recycled or composted. While that’s definitely a good thing, it’s not good enough. Recycling can be easy – and fun –for everyone in the family.
Here are 10 tips and activities your kids can help out with.
- Take a trashy trip. Visit your local landfill, recycling center or transfer station with your parents, school, or group. Get to know what’s recyclable in your community and what happens to your trash after the garbage truck takes it away. Ask lots of questions. Recycling is different in different places, so knowing your local rules is an important first step. It might be a little smelly, but it’s worth it!
- Don’t be a litterbug. We all make trash everyday. Make sure that your recyclable trash always goes in the proper place – a recycling receptacle, of course! Dropping trash on the ground is littering, and it doesn’t just make a place look ugly. It hurts the environment by polluting the land and water, and that affects all of us, including animals that can mistake litter for food or get tangled up in trash. Stopping litter is easy – it begins with you.
- Reuse. It’s like recycling, only better. So, what do you do with a can or bottle or book or ANYTHING when you’re finished with it? The absolute best thing you can do is to reuse things so that they stay out of the trash. Things like drink bottles and grocery bags can be refilled. Books and magazines can be reused as art projects or gift wrapping. Old toys or electronics can be donated to a charity that will give them to someone else. Be creative – the only limit is your imagination!
- Know your numbers. Look closely for the recycling symbol (three arrows going in a circle) on plastic bottles, packages or containers. Plastic items that have a number “1” or “2” in the middle of the symbol are the easiest to recycle, and should be accepted by almost every recycler. Know your local rules.
- Can it! Metals are among the most valuable materials for recycling. Aluminum and steel cans are always welcomed by recyclers, and most metals can be recycled infinitely (that means over and over again, forever) with no loss of quality.
- Look beyond the daily paper. Paper and cardboard are America’s most-recycled materials, and between the classroom and homework, kids use a lot of paper! In addition to newspaper recycling, most communities will accept cardboard, magazines, direct mail, catalogs, and phone books.
- Make recycling easy on the road. Keep two bags in your car or truck to contain your family’s trash – one bag for garbage, and one for recyclables. Pre-sorting on the road makes it easier to move your recyclables to the proper containers once you get to where you’re going.
- Improve your neighborhood with a cleanup event. Clean neighborhoods are better places for everyone to live, work, shop and play. Join or organize a local cleanup event, and be sure to sort the recyclables you pick up. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a little effort can make.
- Kids, teach your parents well! Let’s face it, Mom and Dad might have learned about recycling way back in the 1990s. Things have changed a lot since then! Keep your family updated on what you learn about recycling, waste and trash. Talk with them about climate change. Parents can learn a lot from kids, so be sure to set a good example for them.
- Tell the world what you think. Have something to say? Make a poster about litter or recycling, or make a video about trash. Write a letter to your local newspaper about an environmental issue that you care about. Hey, you can’t protect the planet all by yourself. “Getting the word out” shows that you care, and can get other people to think about what’s important to kids. Speak up!
Tips provided by Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. To learn more about Keep America Beautiful, visit www.kab.org.