It is impossible nowadays to throw anything away without first considering whether it can be used or recycled. This is just the way it should be, since our world is struggling with the amount of rubbish we produce. The more we can do to change our habits and recycle and re-use as much as we can, the better it is for us and for our planet.
It is said that many habits are formed in our younger years, when we are learning how to behave and act in the world around us. Surely then it stands to reason that we should do all we can to encourage and teach the young how important recycling is?
Putting recycling into action in schools
The good news is many schools are already doing their bit for the planet, recycling as much as they can on a daily basis so less is sent to landfill. It has definitely become easier to recycle in recent times, particularly as there are more bins and bin combinations designed to make the task easier.
Of course recycling in schools doesn’t just apply to the children. It applies equally to the adults too. Buying the correct bins in the first place goes a long way towards making the job easier, so we can quickly get rid of things in the right places. This is easily done when you realise that many recycling bins nowadays are colour-coded. It depends on the make and model of the bin but some have the main body in a particular colour while others have a colour-coded lid. In some cases you can also add useful stickers reminding everyone which items need to go in which bin.
Schools also provide an excellent example of how recycling can work at its best when designed to suit a particular area. For example the needs of the staff room or office areas that are out of bounds to children will require very different recycling bins to those areas that children can use. Kids won’t have any need to recycle ink cartridges, whereas those staff working in offices may need such a facility very often indeed.
Adults can also set a good example at school
Kids won’t recycle if they don’t see adults doing the same thing. It’s the old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality, isn’t it? Fortunately more and more schools are now starting to recycle and since there are some 34,000 schools across the entire UK, this makes a big difference to the country’s recycling ambitions as a whole.
Of course this is also a learning opportunity. If kids understand the importance of recycling and what it means at an early age, they are more likely to carry on doing so into adulthood. In several years from now they will be teaching their own children those same techniques so the cycle can be perpetuated long into the future.
Involving children in the recycling process is of major importance. Introducing the scheme with little fanfare and even less information is not likely to meet with success. However if you get the kids involved and inspire them to generate as much recycled rubbish as possible, who knows what can be achieved?
For instance, if a primary school is divided into several classes, perhaps each class can have its own bins. Each week the rubbish from each bin could be measured so a chart can be kept to see which class is doing the most recycling. This is a great idea because it allows for recycling all kinds of different items. For example, clean foil from lunch boxes, empty drinks bottles and cartons, waste paper and all kinds of other things can all go towards helping one particular class to win.
Another good idea would be to encourage the children to create posters about recycling and its many benefits. These could be hung around the school to remind everyone of the advantages involved. Another angle would be to ask the children to make smaller posters to stick on each bin. So for instance they could create posters for a paper recycling bin, others for plastic recycling bins and so on. This could be a competition with the best ones chosen as winners, or simply a way of using the designs and changing them every now and then so they are all used.
Choosing the right bins to use at school
We’ve already touched on this above, but let’s go into it in more detail here – this time with children in mind. Recycling isn’t perhaps the most appealing subject you could introduce to children of a young age, but there are ways to make it more so.
For example the types of bins used can make a big difference. Younger children love and respond to bright colours, so if you can use these to help make things easier for them. Indeed, some bins are specifically designed with young children in mind. A good example of this is a buddy bin. There is more than one type of bin in this area, but the idea is the same – each bin is designed to look like a quirky and friendly character that young children will like and respond to.
The first option is a round grey bin with a coloured round top. The opening to the bin is designed to look like a mouth, while friendly eyes have been included just above it. The second option is even more appealing, as it has the mouth opening as above but it also has two eyes set out on stalks. This would surely be eye-catching for everyone, especially as they can be purchased in a variety of different colours to accommodate different types of recycling.
These bins work best with newcomers to school life. They are amusing to look at and many children will enjoy the idea of ‘feeding’ the bins with their rubbish. They can also get used to the idea of colour-coded recycling bins, although the bins will also be clearly marked with pictures of what can be ‘fed’ to them, along with the appropriate wording.
In terms of secondary schools the more traditional recycling bins can be used. These should also be labelled for ease of use and each area can be fitted with the right bins depending on what is required for that particular space.
Can lessons be learned at home before children go to school?
Definitely! It’s never too early to start learning about the world around us. Children are naturally curious as well, which means they are bound to start asking questions about what we do with rubbish when they see us throwing items away. When you think about it, the fact that many modern kitchens now have several bins all organised for recycling would be curious to a young child when they see them for the first time. Picture it: “Mummy, why are you throwing away that paper in that bin and throwing the plastic bottle into a different one?” As soon as they start asking questions, this is the time to start introducing the answers.
Introduce some facts and figures that your children can relate to as well. A little digging online can bring up some fascinating facts in this way. For example, did you know that by recycling a single tin can (a baked bean can, let’s say) you will save the same amount of energy you’d need to turn your TV on for three hours. I didn’t know that until I did some research for this article.
There are other ways you can explain why recycling is so important too. Few young children will have heard of landfill. Yet if you ask them to imagine a big hole in your back garden filled with rubbish, this is as accurate a description as you can give them for what landfill essentially is. If you asked them whether or not they would be happy with a garden full of rubbish, they would doubtless say no. You can then say that by recycling more, there will be less to go in that hole to begin with.
Introducing recycling in as many ways as possible
You can see how important it is to educate children about recycling from a young age. Years ago none of us recycled, but now we know the consequences of these actions, both on the environment and indeed on our own lives. It is even more important for the people of the future to start recycling as soon as possible. By introducing the idea from a young age we can instil good habits in our future adults.
There is definitely a place for schools to work with the idea to ensure recycling is high on the agenda. However this is an important topic and it should be introduced in the home as well. In addition each area is likely to have its own individual needs, so children are able to learn about the technique in a number of different ways.
Now that has to be good news when it comes to making a concerted effort to reduce what goes into landfill, doesn’t it?
Once you have digested that why not take a look at some of our fun ideas to motivate pupils to go green