Although many of us are constantly reminded to recycle and compost our items, we do not always know the proper way to do so. All across the country, recycling education is approached differently — some areas focus a lot about the proper way to discard trash, whereas others teach hardly anything about the process. This is a classic example of educational inequality because communities are not receiving comparable levels of instruction and opportunities to recycle and help the earth as best as possible. I grew up in Fresno, CA, and was hardly educated in my school district about the environment, the impact humans have on it and how I could do my part. Very little on the matter was taught in my classes. From my memory, we only had one bin to throw items away in — a trashcan — in lieu of different options for for recycling and compost. This led me, and most likely everyone I grew up with, to be pretty clueless about recycling. It all changed for me when I went to college in Santa Cruz, CA. Santa Cruz is a very environmentally conscious area. Many events at schools and around town focus on recycling and the environment — whether it be the forest, local farms or the expansive Pacific Ocean that is so integral to life in Santa Cruz. Even the elementary schools host environmentally themed events — such a boon for a small town. However, for a brand new college student who is not used to this kind of environment, it can also be very confusing. Although recycling seemed an easy enough task growing up, I quickly realized how little I knew about it. I would pause before recycling bins to inspect the signs directing readers where to toss their trash and was probably unsuccessful at finding the right bin a few times. Admittedly, I had no idea what composting really meant. Overall, taking a moment to focus on the correct way to throw out trash was hardly a blip in my everyday life, yet I am sure my confusion led to me getting it wrong on multiple occasions. This experience got me thinking, “Why haven’t we all been taught to do this from birth?” As of 2011, all California schools are required to recycle. This is a good (and completely necessary) step. However, it does not come close to solving the issue of waste education inequality. There is no doubt that the state’s education system is not equal — the quality of education a person receives depends on the area they happen to live in and (sometimes) how much money they can spend on schooling. But, one way to lessen the recycling education gap is to create state laws that emphasize the importance of this type of education. Recycling and the environment should be an important topic for students since the way they treat the environment today will affect their future on this planet. In my opinion, this is just as important a subject as reading or math. If California starts aiming to create laws enforcing a good amount of environmental education at all schools, public or private, I believe real change can begin to happen. It is a small step, but children would have a better chance to learn the importance of recycling and taking care of the earth at a young age. This will instill a lifetime’s worth of environmentally minded actions. It is great to have a community showing interest in recycling, but it is not helpful if people do not know how to recycle properly. By focusing on recycling education and the future generations, a real difference could be made, across California and elsewhere.
Blog Action Day: Striving for Recycling Education Equality in California
California suffers from recycling education inequality. Change across the state could help shape a new generation of recycling champions.