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How to get your kids to care about recycling
Why should kids care about recycling? Despite the fact that individuals and communities are recycling more than ever, each person in the United States – and that includes kids – continues to generate about 4.5 pounds of trash per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“We're saving landfill space by recycling. By recycling, we're able to reuse the different materials – wood, metal, appliances. Those things can be reused as something else,” Bill Beck, Yuma County public works director, said.
The EPA notes that the above statistic points to a continuing need to teach the next generation about reducing waste.
“Recycling may not be super exciting, but it is super important. Getting your little ones enthusiastic about recycling their bottles, cans and paper goods will not only reduce your family's landfill load, it will also help them build good eco-conscious habits for life,” states Kiwilog, a family blog that promotes natural and organic living.
Families are encouraged to teach kids about the connection between recycling an aluminum can and saving energy and how the consumption of material goods contributes to air and water pollution.
Kids should learn where the products they use every day come from and what kind of waste these products create.
They should also understand why it is important to prevent waste in the first place by recycling and reusing, as EPA notes on its “Quest for Less” website (http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/quest.htm).
Although schools might touch on the subject of recycling, experts agree that parents are in the best position to get children to think about their own actions and the results of their actions and their personal responsibility toward the environment.
But how can parents get their kids excited about recycling? Parents can become role models by taking small steps, such as reusing paper grocery and lunch bags or eliminate waste by buying products with less packaging.
They can compost food scraps rather than buying fertilizer; donate old toys, clothes, furniture and cars; and close the recycling loop by purchasing recycled-content products and packaging.
Kiwilog suggests keeping it easy and fun with some of these ideas:
• Make recycling rules clear. Keep a list of what is and isn't recyclable in a prominent spot, such as the refrigerator or a bulletin board. You can also use different colored bins for different items, like blue for paper items and yellow for glass, to help little ones remember what goes where.
• Try some friendly competition. Encourage each family member to see how many items he or she can recycle in a week, or how few items end up in the trash. Take it a step further by creating a neighborhood recycling competition.
• Do some research. As a family, learn about the new things that are made out of recycled material, and try to identify them on your daily outings. For instance, you can point out a playground made of plastic lumber that may have come from old water bottles.
• Find incentives for sorting the trash, such as a recycling center that pays for materials. Kids will enjoy using the money to buy an ice cream or other treats.
In Yuma, the city maintains two drop-off locations for recyclables: 13th Street and 2nd Avenue, and 17th Street and 45th Avenue.
Residents are encouraged to recycle aluminum and steel cans, cardboard, papers, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, plastic milk and juice containers, detergent bottles and any other household plastics.
Residents do not have to separate recyclables. They may be dumped loosely into any of the site containers. However, the city asks that recyclables be washed out to prevent contamination. At this time the city does not accept glass or waxed cardboard containers.
For more information about the city's recycling program, please contact the Solid Waste Division of Public Works at 373-4500.
Yuma County also has a program which accepts common recyclables as well as all kinds of materials, such as car batteries, appliances and yard trimmings.
However, some materials are only accepted at certain sites, which include North Gila Valley, Wellton, Tacna and Dateland. Check the county's website at www.co.yuma.az.us for detailed lists for each site.
In addition, Yuma County has a waste tire facility at the North Gila Valley site. Individuals can drop off up to five tires for free. A small fee is charged for more than five tires.
“Waste tires have many uses. Our contractor recycles them into asphalt for the freeway, door mats and playground equipment,” Beck said.
He pointed out that the recycling program has another benefit. “There's a savings to taxpayers. If they dispose of these materials, the county has to pay to dispose them at a landfill. Recycling reduces our costs.”
He encourages county residents to become familiar with the materials that are recyclable and to become accustomed to sorting at home, which helps out county staff at the recycling sites.
Several commercial businesses also pay for recyclables, including glass. To find a location, search online for “recycling” or check the phone book.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.
What happens to recyclables?
Recycled cardboard and newspaper are used to make new boxes, papers and other products such as tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, egg cartons and napkins.
Recycled plastic called PET, found in soft drink, juice and peanut butter containers, is used to make new products such as carpets, fiberfill (insulating material in jackets and sleeping bags), bottles and containers, auto parts and paint brushes.
Another kind of recycled plastic, HDPE, used in milk, water, detergent, and motor oil containers, can be remanufactured into trash cans, bathroom stalls, plastic lumber, toys, trash bags and hair combs.
Recycled glass is used again and again in new glass containers as well as roadway asphalt, road filler and fiberglass.
Recycled aluminum beverage cans, one of the most successful recyclables, are remade into new cans in as little as 90 days after they are collected. Recycled aluminum cans also can be used in aluminum building materials.
All steel products manufactured in the U.S. contain 25 to 30 percent or 100 percent recycled steel, depending on the manufacturing process used.
How many recycled plastic soda bottles does it take to make ...?
1 XL T-shirt ... 5 bottles
1 ski jacket filler ... 5 bottles
1 sweater ... 27 bottles
1 sleeping bag ... 35 bottles
1 6-foot-long plastic park bench ... 1,000 plastic milk jugs
Source: “Quest For Less,” Environmental Protection Agency
Recycling Learning Game
To help children recognize the similarities and differences among common recyclable items, play a sorting game and put different recyclables into the appropriate bin.
Step 1: Set up the four bins and label them “Paper,” “Glass,” “Plastic,” and “Metals.” Make a pile of all of the recyclable items on the floor and ask the kids to gather around them in a circle.
Step 2: Explain to kids that they will become “Recycling Rangers” and learn how to recycle different items. Discuss with them how different “garbage” items can be recycled into new products. Note that it is important to separate these items into different categories before they are used to make new products.
Step 3: Ask the kids to look at the different recyclable materials and discuss how they are alike and how they are different. Ask them to compare the colors, textures and weight of the different objects. When handling the glass bottles, take great care not to accidentally break the containers. Also, note that some metal containers have sharp edges that can cause injury to the children.
Step 4: Moving through the pile one item at a time, ask the kids to identify the material that each item is made from. Then have a child place the item in the appropriate bin.
Source: “Quest For Less,” Environmental Protection Agency