Recycling

RecyclingMy son is a cub scout and has been doing a recycling project for the past few months.  Our little town does have a recycling program of sorts, but not exactly an EASY one.  You can drop off cardboard, newspapers, and magazines in a bin in town.  As for glass, plastic, and pop cans, you have to buy special bags for them and then deposit them in with your regular trash.  The colored recycling bags are later sorted out of the refuse by people paying their debt to society with doing community service hours.  I hate our recycling program for a variety of reasons:

  • It is inconvenient.
  • It costs me money.
  • It doesn’t save me any space in my garbage can.

I wish communities would make recycling people-friendly, and not just earth-friendly.  A lot more people would probably be doing a lot more to save the planet if we made it simple.  I’m not asking to make no effort.  If there were one recycling station in my town where I could deposit ALL my recyclables, I’d be happy to make the trip.  I don’t want to buy special bags and I don’t want to have to run my recyclables to a variety of places all over town.  I don’t think I’m asking too much, especially when several of the cities we’ve lived in have picked up recyclables from a separate receptacle at my curb on garbage day.

Exit soap box.  Enter teacher.

Here are a few tidbits about the most recycled package in America: aluminum cans.

  • It’s estimated that since the early ’70’s over 25 million TONS of aluminum cans have been recycled.  If you placed that many cans end to end it could stretch to the moon more than 482 times!
  • We currently recycle about 53% of the aluminum cans we use in the U.S.  In 1972 (when we started recycling aluminum) we recycled 53 million pounds of aluminum cans.  That’s less than we recycle in a week currently (Even though we only recycle about 47% of the cans we use!)
  • When a can is recycled it’s back on the shelf as a new can in less than 2 months.
  • The weight of aluminum cans recycled in 2009 was 807,860 tons…about as much as 11 or 12 aircraft carriers. (more aircraft carriers than the United States owns).
  • We save 95% of the production energy when we recycle a can rather than making a brand new one from ore.  That means that in 2009 16.1 million barrels of oil were saved due to aluminum can recycling.
  • Some places still buy back recycled pop cans.  Since 1972 Americans have earned quite a bit from selling back aluminum cans–over $33 billion.

Some Things You Can Do

  • Start your own recycling project.  To find out about recycling centers near you, visit Earth911.  My son has been gathering newspapers, junk mail, glass, aluminum, and other recyclables from not only our household, but also from neighbors who normally just throw those items in the trash.
  • He also cleaned up several parks, collecting both trash and recyclables.
  • Along with those efforts, we ordered trees through The Arbor Day Foundation which we planted here in our town.  You automatically get 10 free trees to plant with a $10.00 donation to the foundation.

Click here to see lots of fun recycling games and activities to help kids learn more about what can and can’t be re-used and recycled.

Even one kid can make a difference.

Additional Layers

  • Learning to take care of anything we value is an important lesson for kids.  There are plenty of sloppy people out there who take little pride in themselves, our world, or their small place in it.  Teach kids the value of hard work and taking good care of the things they value.
  • Another thing our family does to tend to the earth is grow a family garden.  We plant fruits, vegetables, and herbs and eat from it all summer long.  We also preserve what we can to make it last into the cold months.  Each kid has their own small plot within our big garden that they choose plants for, prepare the ground, plant, tend, and harvest.
  • Visit a national park near you and go on several hikes.  Appreciate the beauty around you.  Take along a camera and a notebook to write about what you see.  There are excellent Junior Ranger programs that let kids learn about and explore the park while earning their junior ranger badge.
  • Go on a trash hunt.  Give teams bags to try to fill as fast as they can at a location in your town that needs to be spruced up.
  • Have a re-use invention convention.  Find some items around your house that normally get thrown away (like food packaging) and re-use them to create some cool inventions.  You could even make it a contest.
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