Get Children Excited About Recycling

Get Children Excited About Recycling

September 25, 2022

Kids get excited about anything they understand and feel that they can do.  It also helps when they feel useful and they have a community of friends for support. 


Here are some great ways to get kids excited about recycling

1. Make Kids the Recycle Leader in the House

Children love to have a duty and responsibility, especially if it's attached to an allowance. Having children make sure that all of the recyclables in the house are accounted for, will contribute to them feeling self-empowered and confident.  They will look forward to accomplishing the recyclable goal and feel like they are contributing to their home and community.  A great way to encourage them is to have them look at the weekly accumulation of recyclables and to explain how they helped to save the earth by making sure the recyclables didn’t end up in a landfill, but will be recycled.

2. Park or Ocean Cleanup

We all enjoy doing activities with our friends.  Help your child organize a park clean up with friends or go to the aquarium or beach and see if there is any litter or items that should be recycled.  It would be very helpful to share with the children the negative effects of trash on ocean animals and coral life.

3. Nature Hikes 

Take the children out for a walk in a reservation or around the neighborhood and talk about how trash affects wildlife  and our environment. Compare for your children how garbage in their community makes them feel and how harmful trash in our natural habitats impacts wildlife.
Eco-friendly Library - Start to cultivate a library of children's books like TuTu Goes Green.  Children’s books are a great way to explain very complex subjects in easy digestible language for children to fully understand. Reading these types of books establishes an eco-friendly bedtime routine is a seamless way to communicate green  concepts such as recycling.



What are all of these numbers on plastics?

It takes plastics thousands of years to decompose, so it’s best to recycle or reuse plastics when able.  Many municipalities have robust recycling programs and recycle many types of plastic.  The number in the middle of the recycle symbol indicates what type of plastic and where it may be recycled.  As a general rule,  when it comes to the caps on plastic bottles, it’s better to dispose of them in the trash, since they're usually made of a different type of plastic), unless your town explicitly says you can throw them in the recycle bin. There's no need to remove bottle labels because the recycling process separates them.  Here are what those numbers mean?

Plastic Recycling Symbol #1: PET or PETE

PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages because it's inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It’s found in soda bottles, water, ketchup and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers. PET or PETE can be picked up through most curbside recycling programs as long as it's been emptied and rinsed of any food. It may be recycled into polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, bottles and food containers.


Plastic Recycling Symbol #2: HDPE

HDPE (high density polyethylene) is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially when it comes to packaging.  It can be found in milk jugs, juice bottles, bleach, detergent, household cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles, trash and shopping bags, motor oil bottles, butter and yogurt tubs, cereal box liners.

HDPE can often be picked up through most curbside recycling programs, although some do not allow flimsy plastics (like grocery bags and plastic wrap).  However, some stores will collect and recycle them.

Recycled into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing, shampoo bottles


Plastic Recycling Symbol #3: PVC or V

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and V (vinyl) is tough and weathers well, so it's commonly used for things like piping and siding. PVC is also cheap, so it's found in plenty of products and packaging. Because chlorine is part of PVC, it can result in the release of highly dangerous dioxins during manufacturing. It’s mostly found in blister packaging, wire jacketing, siding, windows and piping.  PVC and V can rarely be recycled, but it's accepted by some plastic lumber makers. If you need to dispose of either material, ask your local waste management to see if you should put it in the trash or drop it off at a collection center.

Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mud-flaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats


Plastic Recycling Symbol #4: LDPE

LDPE (low density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic with many applications. In the past, it hasn't been accepted through most recycling programs, but recently more and more communities are starting to. This is found in squeezable bottles, bags for bread, frozen food, dry cleaning, shopping bags, tote bags, and furniture. LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities might accept it. That means anything made with LDPE (like toothpaste tubes) are usually thrown in the trash unfortunately. Plastic shopping bags can often be returned to stores for recycling.

Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile


Plastic Recycling Symbols #5: PP

PP (polypropylene) has a high melting point, so it's often chosen for containers that will hold hot liquid. It's gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers. It can be found in some yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, caps and straws. PP can be recycled through some curbside programs, just don't forget to make sure there's no food left inside. 

Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays.


Plastic Recycling Symbol #6: PS

PS (polystyrene) can be made into rigid products or foam products known as Styrofoam. Styrene monomer (a type of molecule) can leach into foods and is a human carcinogen, while styrene oxide is classified as a probable carcinogen.  Polystyrene is found in disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases.  Not many curbside recycling programs accept PS in the form of rigid plastics and many manufacturers have switched to using PET instead. Most places still don't accept PE in foam forms because it's 98% air. Since foam products tend to break apart into smaller pieces, they should be placed into a bag, squeeze out the air and tie up the bag before putting it in the trash to prevent pellets from dispersing.

Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers.


Plastic Recycling Symbol #7: Miscellaneous

A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into this one. Polycarbonate is number seven plastic, and it's the clear hard plastic mostly known as BPA has worried parents after studies have shown one of its building blocks is a hormone disruptor. PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from plants and is carbon neutral, also falls into this category. It’s found in three- and five-gallon water bottles, bulletproof materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon. These other plastics are traditionally not recycled, so don't expect your local provider to accept them. The best option is to consult your municipality's website for specific instructions.

Recycled into: Plastic lumber and custom-made products

Did you know?

  • Staples has a large recycling program where you can bring items in-store or some mail-in, ink and toner cartridges, batteries, and old electronics.
  • Often eye doctors' offices will collect old glasses, or even local libraries.
  • Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept Styrofoam peanuts for reuse
  • Crayons: This program collects crayons from around the country, melts them down, and sells 100% recycled crayons

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