Education helped push recycling participation

By Jennifer Kalish
Editorial Intern

Published: September 4, 2013 1:25 pm ET
Updated: September 4, 2013 1:27 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability

Editor's Note: This story appears in in Waste & Recycling News' commemorative issue, "40 Years of Curbside Recycling."

As more and more K-12 schools adopt comprehensive recycling programs, kids across the country are becoming increasingly inspired to do their part in protecting the environment.

"A young child naturally has an open heart to things like animals and nature, it's just natural," said Tamar Hurwitz, environmental education manager at the San Francisco Department of the Environment. "When they understand that the choices they make to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost can actually help protect these natural areas that kids care about, they're motivated to share their information with parents and friends, and they're motivated to take the actions to help."

In many ways, because of their inherent enthusiasm for protecting nature, children are leading their communities toward more sustainable practices — especially in cities where recycling services are not offered.

Take 10-year-old Vanis Buckholz from Corona Del Mar, Calif.

Growing up in a city without curbside recycling services, his parents never even considered recycling at home.

"It's not that my wife or I had any aversion to recycling," said Dave Buckholz, Vanis' father. "It just never really crossed our minds."

That is until Vanis, at age 7, brought home a school assignment for an Earth Day lesson on recycling.

"Our homework was to think of something we could do ourselves to help." Vanis said. "My family did not recycle, and I didn't know anything about how to do it, but it seemed like something a kid could do."

Not only did the Buckholz household start recycling as a result of the assignment, but Vanis has since started a full-fledged recycling business for his community.

On a small trailer hitched to his bike, Vanis collects a truckload of recyclables every two weeks from local businesses and neighbors. He offers the service to his customers free of charge, and 25% of the money he earns from the commodities goes to local charities.

While most kids probably aren't going out and starting businesses because they learned about recycling in school, it's very likely that many of them are sharing what they've learned with their parents and siblings.

"What begins as an act of recycling in the schools for students oftentimes carries over to the home and results in the entire family adopting recycling practices." said Barbara Heineken, East Coast schools coordinator for the Carton Council of North America. "And as a long-term benefit, kids who are exposed to recycling early on are more likely to continue recycling throughout their entire lives."

Though it's not something that can be easily quantified into a tangible statistic, most educators and recycling coordinators understand that a really great school program can make a kid eager to talk about recycling with their friends and family. But not all recycling education programs are the same, and some can be much more effective in encouraging discussions than others.

Especially among the younger students, it's important to send a positive message that will excite and motivate them to recycle, rather than simply scaring them into participating, Hurwitz said.

"We don't want to give them scary statistics and make them feel afraid for their future," she said. "We want to be honest but also say, 'Hey there's hope, there's good news, you have the power to make a difference,' so that they feel enthused and motivated to take action."

For years, Kelley Dennings, senior director of recycling programs for Keep America Beautiful, has been searching for ways to quantify the amount of kids who take what they learn in school about recycling home with them.

"That's like the holy grail," she said. "We don't know how many schools are actually recycling in the country, so we don't really have a good baseline."

Based on survey responses from the 1,500 schools that participated in Keep America Beautiful's K-12 Recycle-Bowl competition last year, almost 30% said they felt there was an increased awareness about recycling in the community around their school.

While the survey only represents a small sample of K-12 schools, it illustrates the potential these programs have to reach people beyond the students involved.

Whether or not we can prove that recycling education in schools positively affects communities, there's no question that teaching kids — not only how to recycle, but why to recycle — is beneficial to society.

"You know if you're talking to an 8-year-old child and you're talking about the animals that they love and where those animals live, if you explain that natural resources come from natural areas where animals live, suddenly you've got their attention," Hurwitz said. "So we tell a bigger story about that so that they understand that your actions really do matter. It's not just because we don't want waste in the landfill, it's because we don't want to have to go back to nature, take more natural resources out that impact the habitats of the animals they care about."


Comments

Education helped push recycling participation

By Jennifer Kalish
Editorial Intern

Published: September 4, 2013 1:25 pm ET
Updated: September 4, 2013 1:27 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Europe recycled equivalent of 65 billion PET bottles in 2013

September 2, 2014 10:38 am ET

New figures from Petcore Europe said the equivalent of around 65 billion bottles — 1.64 million metric tons — was recycled in the region...    More

Image

EcoCortec develops marine degradeable film to help reduce debris

September 2, 2014 9:55 am ET

Croatian specialist packaging producer EcoCortec has developed marine biodegradable film products designed to combat the scourge of plastics...    More

Image

California lawmakers give final approval to plastic bag ban

August 30, 2014 6:00 am ET

Under the measure, single-use plastic bags will be barred from California retailers, including grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores, as ...    More

Image

Green trend boosts plastic building materials business in China

August 29, 2014 9:42 am ET

The greening of China's domestic building materials market is giving the plastics industry a boost.    More

Image

Truce? ACC, US Green Building Council agree to work together on LEED

August 28, 2014 12:08 pm ET

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced Aug. 27 that they will be working together on a new initiat...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events