Teaching Children the Importance of Recycling [National Recycling Day]

November 15th is National Recycling Day! We think it’s an awesome opportunity to get kids excited about helping preserve and protect the planet we all share. Here are some fun ways to teach children the importance of recycling!

Involve them in the recycling process. Most kids are taught about basic recycling habits at a young age, usually during elementary school. For small children, the first step is learning the importance of separating items into different bins, usually identified by color. Parents can encourage their kids to use the proper receptacle when disposing of waste with friendly reminders. For example, if you happen to spot your child walking towards the trash can to dispose of a water bottle, ask them a thought-provoking question like “Are you sure that’s the right basket for that?” At a certain point recycling becomes second nature in most families, so it’s a wonderful idea to include your kids from the start!

Encourage reuse. Recycling and reuse go hand in hand! Over the last several decades, there has been an increased drive to move away from single-use plastics in favor of more sustainable options. Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs are a great place to start! Reduction is also an essential component of recycling, and reusable products contribute immensely to this goal. For example, opt for small washable food storage containers (“tupperware”) to pack snacks instead of plastic baggies. Every little bit counts!

Offer an incentive. For older kids, a common incentive to recycle is the possibility of earning a small amount of money. We think this is a great idea, and parents can make a deal with their kids – “If you sort and bag the recycling, we’ll drop it off at the center together and you can keep whatever we earn.” Bringing your own recycling to a drop-off center can also encourage kids to take their responsibilities a step further – whereas most trash pickup services have one dedicated bin for recyclables, recycling centers usually require items to be separated by material (glass, plastic, aluminum, etc.) This is a great way to introduce kids to the importance of recycling and may even encourage them to create a sorting system for your home!

Explain the real world importance of recycling. We encourage parents to let their kids know why recycling is so important – most people can agree that pollution is a real problem, and it certainly didn’t get this way overnight. If you have older kids or teens, feel free to show them some of the real evidence – a quick Google search of the “Great Pacific garbage patch” is a good place to start. Hearing about the importance of recycling is one thing, but when you actually see the giant trash heap in the middle of the Pacific ocean (it’s twice the size of Texas and has 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic waste!), the severity of the problem becomes immediately clear.

Recycling is a great way to remind ourselves that, even with all our differences, we all share this beautiful planet. National Recycling Day is all about bringing awareness to the fact that it is our mutual responsibility to keep our homes clean and pollution-free!