Recycling is important to preserve Earth's natural resources and our environment. By recycling, we can save trees, reduce the size of our landfills, and help to decrease the carbon footprint we leave behind. There are many different things we can do, both large and small, to help with the recycling effort. Learn more and find out what you can do on a small scale to help your environment stay strong and healthy.
Why Do We Recycle?
We recycle in order to reduce our mark on our planet and reduce the amount of new materials needed to meet consumer needs. By reducing the need for new materials, we can also reduce the amount of energy and resources being consumed during the manufacturing process. This ultimately reduces our carbon footprint, the dent we put in Earth's natural resources and the waste we create that then sits in landfills while it decomposes, which can take hundreds, even thousands of years, depending on the material.
What Can Be Recycled?
Paper, plastic, glass, and metals can all be recycled. That covers a ton of manufactured consumer goods, right? Organic materials are also recyclable, but in a different way; organics, which can also include paper, can be worked right back into our soil, through a process called composting. Organic materials break down and their leftover nutrients are deposited back into the earth. Compost is added to our gardens and lands to provide additional nutrients and rejuvenate old, worn out soil.
Paper, plastics, glass, and metals can be recycled by separating them into categories based on their like materials. They are then further broken down and used in the creation of new consumer goods. Rubber can also be recycled and has many versatile uses that don't all require it to be totally broken down. For example, recycled rubber tires have become popular recycled materials to be used as playground surfacing.
How Does Recycling Affect The Planet?
Recycling helps our planet by stretching our natural resources further and reducing our need to drain our planet of finite resources, such as crude oil, which are commonly using in the manufacturing of goods. By stretching and recycling already-made items, we don't need to allocate resources to the creation of new ones; this can go a long way in conserving our environment. For example, when purchasing bottled water, opt for bottles made of 100% recycled materials. That means that no new plastic needed to be made in order to put those products on the shelves. You could even go one step further and purchase a reusable, recycled water bottle. Recycling also reduces pollution by reducing the need for manufacturing plants to operate and at the same time improves our economy by creating millions of green jobs.
How You Can Be A Better Recycler?
There are many different things we can do to become better recyclers. Ranging from small, barely noticeable daily changes in our routines, to more notable commitments to going green, there are things that each and every one of us can do to decrease our carbon footprint and increase the awareness of recycling and its importance to our planet. In your home, make it easy for your family to recycle by placing recycling containers in an accessible spot. Many find it helpful to place them in the kitchen; that way there's no excuse for putting those soda cans in the trash can, rather than the appropriate recycling bin. Some households also find it best to place them in the garage, right next to the trash; so it's never forgotten on pick-up day.
At the grocery store, encourage the family to purchase products that are made with recycled materials. This won't work for everything in your shopping cart, but can be easy when shopping for paper products. Look at the packaging before you purchase to see what percentage, if any, is made of recycled materials. You might be surprised what recycled products can find their way into your cart.
Also, when you're shopping as a family, reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic by using your own grocery bags. Canvas bags are sturdy enough that your groceries won't fall out and you can bring them with you each time you go grocery shopping; that way you won't have to use the disposable plastic grocery bags the store provides. But what happens if you forget your reusable grocery bags? Many grocery stores still offer a paper bag alternative to plastic, just be careful that the condensation from your cold groceries doesn't make them too flimsy to carry. Many families choose to keep their reusable grocery bags in the car, that way they're always on hand when they're needed. Remember, they may cost a few dollars extra to start off, but once you've got your stock pile of reusable grocery bags, you'll feel good knowing that you're not contributing to local landfills; money well spent!
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- Going Green Checklist - Think Beyond Recycling (PDF)
- Earth Day by Numbers - Recycling Facts and Figures
- Kids Be Green
- Videos and Learning Activities for Kids: Recycling
- Garbology - From PBS
- Where Does Your Recycling Go?
- The Recycling Zone
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- Tons of Fun Recycling and Eco-Friendly Activities for Kids
- Make a Difference by Recycling (videos)
- Paper: How it is Made and Recycled
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