Start Early: 5 Tips for Teaching Kids about Recycling

It's never too early to get kids on the path toward sustainable living. Children at just about any age can learn about the importance of recycling and participate in family recycling efforts. Check out these 5 tips for getting your child involved!

1) Be a good example—children will follow your lead, so start by setting an example and making an effort to recycle consistently. Explain to your kids what you're doing when you throw plastic into the recycling bin instead of the trashcan. Show them how to look for the recycling number on plastic packaging and give them the opportunity to put recyclables into the bin themselves.

2) Set up a recycling center in your home and get your child involved in the process. Select several bins/boxes/containers and help your child decorate and label them for different materials. You can use paint, markers, crayons, paper—really anything that sparks their creativity! It will be a fun activity and they will be eager to recycle at the station they helped to create.

3) Make recycling an adventure by visiting a recycling center and a landfill! A great way to teach kids about recycling is to let them see first-hand what goes on behind the scenes. A trip to a landfill teaches kids that when things go into the trash they don't just disappear. The enormous piles of trash will make a clear case for why recycling is so important. And, a trip to the recycling center is an exciting way for kids to see what happens to the materials they have been sorting and how they are turned into new products.

4) Show kids how to reuse and recycle at home by making something new out of old materials. You can make a guitar out of an empty tissue box and a paper towel tube, a desk organizer out of old cans, or a bird feeder out of plastic bottles. Your child will see "˜trash' in a whole new light!

5) Bring kids along for trips to recycle items that aren't accepted curbside. A trip to the office supply store can demonstrate how to recycle batteries, cellphones, and electronic cables. If your state has a bottle deposit, your kids will have a blast sorting cans into the machines at the grocery store and you can even give them the money your earn as a reward for their good efforts. Don't forget to also show them that clothing can be recycled, by bringing the clothes they have grown out of to a yellow bin near you.