Encouraging Children to Recycle
Our children are our future - this is a commonly accepted phrase, stating that the children of each generation accept the world as it is from their mothers and fathers. Our children receive the planet in the state their parents left it, for better or for worse, and currently, as eminent scientists, politicians and activists increasingly tell us, the planet is in a poor, even perilous state.
As a human species, we are currently making so much stuff which will someday soon end up as trash, that we will need a dozen more planets in which to dispose of all the rubbish!
Trash of all kinds fill up our landfill sites, but all of these sites, in the UK and around the world, are filling up rapidly and other sites or means have to be found to deal with all the junk we use then throw away .The trash accumulates in the landfill sites, some of it like some plastics, taking many thousands of years to break down.
Some of it breaks down quickly, and can leach toxins and many types of nasty chemicals through the pile and into the earth and ground water, storing up problems for generations to come. Much of this waste can be recycled, or even pre-cycled, and we can even try to cut down on the amount of stuff we as a species makes and consumes....but first, how to explain the need to recycle to kids, so they inherit a world with less toxic over-flowing rubbish in it?
Communicating the Need to Recycle to ChildrenAs with all kinds of education to children and the young, it is important to teach the need to recycle with a mixture of seriousness - because it is a very serious environmental situation, and some lightness and fun, because this method often engages both the young and old, and the issues are remembered for much longer this way.
Educating about recycling is very much a two-fold process: it is about explaining the predicament of limited space versus consumer demand for stuff, and the predicament for the environment and for the child to grow up in an un-polluted, healthy world.
Education is an art form in itself, and some people are born teachers and some are not. Finding the right approach to educating about waste and recycling takes special skill, but the simplest approach is to teach by example. This can be done easily at home, by showing your child or children from a very early age what is recyclable and what isn't.
As well as setting up a clear area in the home where certain materials are recycled - one bin for glass, one bin for cardboard, another for plastic, and if possible a home composting area; try to explain or show your child how materials can be recycled and used again. Making a mosaic at home from broken down pieces of glass can be a fun and rewarding crafts activity for example.
Materials and books are available which show and explain how glass bottles are broken down and recycled in the next cycle of bottles. The same is also true of books looking at cardboard manufacture, paper, plastics,materials and all of the objects we use in our daily lives .These materials are available for all age ranges - if in any doubt ask at your child's school or nursery, or at the local library.
Family EducationTaking your child or children on trips to learn about recycling can be made into a great family activity too. A visit to the Local Municipal recycling centre is easy, and it may be possible to arrange a family visit to a local landfill site too, providing the child is over a certain age for safety reasons.
Getting your child to recycle at home from an early age, and to know why we all need to recycle, is the crucial issue. If your child takes an interest in recycling and reducing their personal waste output, and they then communicate this to their friends, and eventually to their own children, then you have achieved a lot as an environmentally-aware responsible parent.A home composting system is a particularly good way of involving your child in the process: saving the kitchen scraps of raw food, putting them into the compost bin or pile, turning the pile every so often and seeing the worms and bacteria at work, breaking the sandwiched layers of compostable material at work, and then finally feeling the finished compost and using it in the garden is a real hands-on experience of recycling.
School EducationHow much your child's school educates about recycling can be hit and miss. Many schools in the UK now are involved in environmental education, and take recycling for granted. Environmental education is now part of the core curriculum for all ages in all schools, but often the practical side of this, including recycling, rests on the efforts of one or a few teachers, and sometimes the energy and good will of some dedicated parents.
Most schools now combine some art projects with recycling initiatives. It is easy enough to organise the collection of materials, like corks from wine bottles, or bottles, or tin cans, or paper, and to create a large creature that can proudly stand inside or outside a school to demonstrate how throwaway objects can be reused to have some fun and be creative.