Across the country, Canadians are adjusting their lifestyles in order to help reduce environmental damage. Recycling is an easy way for families to make a difference, and involving kids in our “green” initiatives helps them to feel empowered! Teaching children about the importance of recycling is easy if we lead by example. As every parent knows, sometimes our best efforts to “instruct” our children can fall short. When it comes to the planet, actions truly speak louder than words. To raise eco-kids, become eco-parents!
Leading By Example
A few simple actions can make a lasting impression with your child. In many cases, the first step is reducing waste, thereby decreasing the pressure on our overwhelmed recycling facilities.
- Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Single-use plastics are problematic due to their long life span, as well as their wasteful manufacturing process. It’s estimated that a plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to break down, and a plastic water bottle 450 years. Unfortunately, up to eight million tons of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, where it threatens marine and plant life. Sea turtles and birds are disappearing due to ingesting plastic debris. Sadly, a whale with up to 80 plastic bags in its stomach was recently discovered in Thailand. Sea plastic is also a health concern for parents since plastic particles in the ocean end up in our children’s seafood.
Impactful changes include avoiding straws, which cannot be recycled. Straws break down into tiny particles that get inhaled by fish and turtles, causing unnecessary suffering. Aquatic animals are drawn to small plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. If you do use straws, opt for paper ones or carry your own easily-washed steel straws. Parents can now purchase reusable straws for picnics and lunch bags which come in individual washable cases. Reusable cutlery is available in similar portable packages, replacing plastic take-out cutlery. Bamboo eating utensils are made from sustainable materials. Parents can even find utensils made from corn, which biodegrades quickly.
Avoiding conventional take-out containers is another easy change since many of them are not recyclable (including hard black plastics). Though Styrofoam is recyclable, chemicals from Styrofoam can leach into hot food and drinks. Bring reusable take-out containers, or opt to buy from retailers who use compostable (or recyclable) take-out materials.
- Use Reusable Coffee Mugs And Drink Bottles
With so many trendy, ergonomic options available, this is an easy change! Bringing an insulated mug allows you to avoid take-out coffee cups, most of which are not recyclable. Cardboard coffee cups are usually lined with plastic, which can leach into hot drinks. If you forget your mug at home, look for retailers with biodegradable cups, which can then be thrown into your green bin! An insulated drink bottle will keep your beverage cool, while helping to keep landfills and recycling facilities clear of plastic water bottles. Look for bottle-filling stations, which are placed in hospitals, malls, and government buildings throughout the country.
For kids’ lunches, avoid juice boxes and pack a refillable bottle. Packed school lunches are an excellent opportunity to send a consistent, subtle message to your child regarding your family’s commitment to an eco-conscious lifestyle. Opt for “litter-less” lunches, steering clear of non-recyclable packaging.
- Avoid Wasteful Packaging
Product packaging is another critical component in landfill accumulation. Children’s toys, in particular, tend to come wrapped in layers of hard plastic and Styrofoam. Whenever possible, avoid over-packaged items. This problem extends to snack packaging since individual foil-wrapped treats are popular with school children. Look for products with recyclable packaging, and avoid portioned snacks. Buying in bulk helps prevent waste from food packaging; treats can then be transported in small Tupperware containers or cloth bags.
- Avoid Gift Wrap
With a variety of easy, cost-effective alternatives to wrapping paper, this is another easy change! Many foil-lined types of gift wrap are not recyclable. Use old magazine pages to wrap gifts, or–for a more creative twist–use recycled kraft paper or newsprint, turning it into an art project. Encourage kids to paint and decorate the paper before use, creating truly personalized packaging. To enhance the eco-friendly factor, use colourful cloth or fabric bags, secured with a string or ribbon, for gifts. These options all look great, are easy on your wallet, and help the environment!
Proper Recycling is Key
When items such as single-use plastics, juice boxes, and gift-wrap cannot be avoided, responsible recycling is vital; be sure to check your municipality’s guidelines. Recycling procedures utilize energy and water, and incorrectly recycled items increase overall waste. Unfortunately, the majority of recyclables do not make their way to the appropriate facilities. Car seats (which can be recycled) often end up in landfills, as do batteries and electronics.
Post charts near your recycling bins to help your children remember what goes into which bin. Let your children see you cleaning and sorting recycling so that this becomes a regular part of your daily routine. Make sure to reuse or repurpose items whenever possible, such as gift bags or wrapping paper. If kids grow up with parents who care about recycling and waste reduction, they will adopt these practices naturally as they grow.
Recycling Initiatives For Kids
Encourage your children to involve friends in these activities.
- Crafts – Those milk cartons and paper towel rolls have endless possibilities for creative kiddos! Armed with a little glue, they can be turned into bird feeders, pencil cases, crayon canisters, puppets, dollhouse furniture, and countless modern art masterpieces! Make sure recycling is clean and free of sharp edges, then let your kids put their imaginations to work.
- Neighbourhood Clean-Ups – Pick a local park or beach, and–armed with bags or boxes–pick up as much trash as possible, sorting it into the appropriate recycling categories. Be sure to bring gardening gloves to protect little hands. For extra motivation, turn it into a contest! You could offer small prizes for the most recyclable items found and sorted. Invite neighbours to join in; when eco-consciousness is shared by a community, habits are more likely to be long-lasting.
- Online Clubs and Contests – Groups such as the Earth Rangers promote an eco-friendly lifestyle while keeping initiatives kid-friendly and fun. These free programs help connect children across the country, using easy “eco-challenges” and educational games. With the goal of empowering kids to make real change, these online platforms (several of which are registered charities) offer incentives to help motivate participants.
- Start a Recycling Program at School – Many parents may be surprised to learn that markers and milk bags can be recycled! Canadian four-litre milk bags are remarkably resilient, and they can be woven into comfy, water-resistant sleeping mats. These are distributed to the homeless all over Canada, and around the globe.
A growing number of Canadian schools have started milk bag recycling programs, as well as collections of old markers (which can be shipped back to manufacturers for recycling). Some schools are also adding battery-collection initiatives! When batteries end up in landfills, they can leach toxic chemicals into our soil and water supplies. If your child’s school doesn’t already have a recycling program, speak to them about getting started! With labelled receptacles for markers, milk bags and batteries placed in a visible area, students get a daily reminder of the potential for impactful change.
To let kids know their voices matter, encourage them to use them! Write to product manufacturers voicing your concerns, or contact your local MP. If you wish your favourite take-out joint switched to recyclable containers, let them know! Encourage your child to ask questions and speak up to help enact change.
For high-volume recycling, the right equipment is essential. For efficient, top of the line balers, conveyor systems and crushers, contact BaleForce Recycling Equipment at (416) 235-1900. While understanding the importance of recycling is essential, you also need to make sure those recyclables are properly sorted and transported. Located in the Milton area, BaleForce will ship machines right to your facility, with skilled technicians handling installation and service.