A Greener Family: How to Start Recycling

Whether or not you believe in climate change and global warming, the amount of waste we as families create on a regular basis is having a negative impact on our planet.

It’s so easy to think we, as individual families, are not part of the problem because our contribution to waste is small. This makes it easy to disregard the importance of recycling.

However, recycling is crucial if we are going to turn our planet around. Each year, the United States alone is responsible for 258 millions tons of trash and around 50% of this is recyclable.

The Benefits of Recycling

  • Recycling prevents reusable materials from being thrown into landfills.
  • It conserves natural resources such as trees, minerals and water.
  • Recycling reduces the pollution caused by creating new materials.
  • It saves energy.

What Can I Recycle?

Many of the items we throw into the garbage can be recycled and reused to create new products.

  • Paper: Mail, notes, newspapers, school reports and anything else written or printed onto paper can be recycled. More than 37% of the fiber used to make new paper products in the U.S. comes from recycled sources.
  • Plastic: Plastic cups and plates, bottles, bag and wrappers.
  • Cardboard: Boxes and boxed packaging – this includes corrugated cardboard as well.
  • Cans: Food cans and beverage cans can be thrown into the recycling bins.
  • Milk and Juice Cartons: These items can be recycled along with regular paper.
  • Batteries, Electronics and Appliances: Although these usually can’t be recycled at the community recycling bins, there are facilities available that will accept these items.

Recycling as a Family

Most families likely don’t recycle because of the time and effort it takes to sort recyclables and dispose of them – I mean, most families don’t have much time to spare!

But if you make recycling fun and part of your regular family routine, you’ll find it easy to make sure these items make it to the big blue bins.

Get Organized. Begin by designating bins or bags for each recyclable material. Because my local bins are divided into plastic, paper and corrugated cardboard, I have 3 bags at home that I sort my materials into.

Know What To Recycle. Unfortunately, many things you may think are recyclable are not. For example, most Styrofoams and all plastics in contact with food are not recommended for recycling. Check out this helpful printout you can use in your home as a guide.

Have a Recycling Day. Choose the best day of the week to take your recycling to the bins. I recommend doing this once a week or you will find the amount of recyclables in your home piling up (which, in the grand scheme or reducing garbage, is a good thing!).

Add it to the Chores List. If you have your children participating in chores, add sorting the recyclables or bringing them to the car to the list.

Make Recycling Fun

Anything that seems like a job sucks and is likely not to get done. Make the routine of recycling exciting and interesting for your children with these ideas:

  • Read books about the importance of recycling and saving our planet. Some great choices are The Lorax (of which there is an adorable movie of) by Dr. Suess and Why Should I Recycle? By Jen Green.
  • Let your kids decorate the sorting bins to personalize them and make them look, well, more fun.
  • Play a game where everyone has to come up with a new use for every piece of non-food trash.

Recycle is RE-Connecting

Starting a recycling habit is a great way to reconnect with nature. Once your children begin to understand the importance of recycling, they’ll be able to appreciate why we need to protect the planet we have.

As you begin your recycling journey, take more time to appreciate the great outdoors. Explain to your little ones that what they see and experience is all we have and we are responsible to take care of it.

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