Recycling is essential for preserving resources, reducing carbon emissions and preventing the unnecessary transfer of reusable waste to the landfill, but after a lifetime of throwing everything in the trash, it can be hard to convince others to make the extra effort to recycle.
In 2008, Americans generated approximately 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted 83 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 33.2% recycling rate
. This means the average person only recycled or composted 1.5 of the 4.5 pounds of waste he or she generated every day.
Experts have said that the U.S. will always rank behind other nations in recycling efficiency as long as there is no set recycling education infrastructure in place.
Teaching kids and teenagers about recycling
and familiarizing them with the process of setting up recycling infrastructure will ensure that the next generation can double or even triple current recycling rates. It’s essential to phase out the throwaway mentality now, so that reducing, reusing and recycling will be second nature for our grandkids, instead of a behavior that’s outside the norm.
Start at an early age
A child’s personality is flexible and has considerable potential for growth and changes during their early years, whereas it’s much more difficult to alter an adult’s personality. It’s important to introduce recycling behaviors as early as possible so they can take hold and become part of a child’s personality as they grow older.
Education starts at home, so look for ways to involve even your smallest children in the recycling process at your residence. Teach them which types of waste go in the recycling bin as opposed to the trashcan, and reward them verbally any time they prevent a recyclable item from being thrown in the waste bin.
Establish recycling curriculum in schools
Many schools across the country have established recycling programs
, but these initiatives don’t do any good if students aren’t educated on how to use them. Just placing recycling bins in the hallways won’t teach kids to recycle. Instruction must happen in the classroom, and should include reasons why as well as how to engage in this behavior.
There are a plethora of lesson plans and teacher resources for creating a recycling curriculum available on the Internet, but the EPA’s website
is a great place to start. On this page, educators can find age-appropriate resources and teaching kits that provide easy ways to focus a portion of the lesson plan on recycling and other sustainable behaviors involving waste or reuse.
Recycling fundraising programs
It’s no secret that public school funding has been slashed dramatically as states struggle to balance their budgets in the face of massive shortfalls. In addition to the environmental benefits, recycling can be a great way for schools to raise money year round without pushing candy and car washes on local residents.
Hazardous electronic waste is an especially popular focus for many school recycling fundraisers, as these items are hard for individuals to recycle responsibly and can be worth a fair amount of money to recycling companies. Here are a few resources to help you create a recycling fundraiser at your school:
: Get paid for collecting used printer cartridges and cell phones.
: This phone recycler pays between 50¢ to more than $150 per phone and turns retired cell phones into emergency 911 cell phones to benefit senior citizens and victims of abuse nationwide.
: Earn cash for collecting used inkjet printer cartridges, laser printer cartridges and cell phones from students, parents and businesses.
Global Re-Source Funding
: A cell phone, inkjet and toner cartridge recycling program that requires no out-of-pocket expenses and can help your school earn money year round.