October 19, 2015

How to Teach Children About Recycling

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how to teach children about recycling
As an environmental educator by day, I am passionate about teaching children of all ages, aka our future generation, the importance of caring for the world in which we live, including the importance of recycling. At home, living a sustainable life as best I can is not just something I do just because, it’s something I am passionate about doing because I care about the natural world.

This recycling game is a fun way to think and talk about how and why we sort our waste, including the types of items that can be recycled. There’s no better day than today to talk to kids about recycling, why it’s helpful and what we can do as families to make our own positive footprint on this planet.

how to teach children about recycling

Sort the Recycling Game


-  2 to 3 containers (i.e. empty food containers)
-  card stock or cardboard (i.e. empty cereal box)
-  magazines, grocery store flyers, printed photos
-  scissors
-  double-sided tape or glue stick
-  marker

how to teach children about recycling

  1. Do some research - how is the waste streamed in your area and what is collected? For example, in Toronto, we have 3 streams: recyclables, trash (non-recyclables) and compost. 
  2. Label the containers, which will act as your collection bins, according to the number of streams your municipality collects.
  3. Using old magazines, grocery store flyers or printed photos, cut out different recyclable, non-recyclable and compostable items. Start with around 20 items. Remember, if creating this game for younger children, make sure to pick items that they can easily recognize and understand what they represent.
  4. Tape or glue these items to card stock. 
  5. Have a discussion with your children around why we recycle: Plastic in landfills and oceans is dangerous because it not biodegradable and leaches toxic chemicals. Instead, plastic photo-degrades, which means over times, it will break down into millions of smaller particles, but never fully bio-degrade/decompose. In our oceans, lakes and even on land, animals mistake these tiny pieces of plastic for food and ingest them, passing toxic chemicals through the food chain and ultimately, to our plates.
  6. Time to play! Set out the container and spread the items on a table in front of the child. Have them examine each item and sort in the appropriate container. 

  • For younger children, use actual items, such as empty drink containers, milk jugs, toothpaste boxes, yogurt containers, etc. 
  • Make this activity a little more challenging by adding more bins and have the children sort by recyclable type, i.e. paper, specific plastics, glass, aluminum, etc. 
  • Challenge your child’s reading skills by adding the name of the item to each the card. Have your child read the name before placing the item in the appropriate container. 
  • Challenge your child's critical thinking by asking them to explain why they have sorted the items the way they have.
  • Go above and beyond and discuss the other two Rs - reduce and reuse! How can you reduce your household consumption? How can you reuse some of the items in the garbage or recycling? If an item in the garbage, such as a toy, is no longer of use to you, what can you do with it instead?
how to teach children about recycling

Recycling has come a very long way since we were young. There are now a lot of household items that we use every single day that can be recycled, and I bet you didn’t even know it. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 75% of solid waste is recyclable, but only about 30% is actually recycled! For example, did you know that old cell phones can be recycled? How about used batteries? 

how to teach children about recycling

So what happens to those used batteries once they are properly recycled? Nowadays, they get turned into new batteries! Energizer® EcoAdvanced™ is the world's first AA battery made with 4% recycled batteries AND is Energizer's longest-lasting alkaline battery ever. Longer lasting batteries means the use of fewer batteries, which creates less waste and has less impact on the planet!

*It is important to note that before you recycle any item, check with your local municipality to see what items can be put in curb-side pickup, and what must be recycled separately, such as electronics and batteries.

energizer eco advanced batteries in-store Walmart

Found at the battery kiosk in the electronics section or in the checkout aisle at your local Walmart, Energizer® EcoAdvanced™ batteries are a step in the right direction towards living a more responsible and sustainable life!

Have you tried Energizer® EcoAdvanced™ batteries, or recently recycled, reused or repurposed something in your home? I'd love to hear about it!

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