When I was younger recycling wasn’t really my “thing”. Honestly, that’s how I thought of it – as something that you do if you’re that type of person, perhaps an activist or into learning about the planet…it really wasn’t that big of a deal right? Nope, not kidding, these were the thought processes of teenage Harriet, bless her little socks.
It’s only really when I had children that I started to realise that recycling isn’t a “thing” for some people to do, it’s a necessity, it’s something that we need to do if we are going to be able to pass this planet on to the people we borrow it from, our children.
Waste is all around us, invariably in plastic form – never more so than when you have kids. From plastic yoghurt containers to the insane amount of plastic packaging for their toys, the amount is vast and becoming a huge issue for our world. For this very reason it’s so important to us to help the children understand that we need to recycle and for us to make it as fun and easy as possible
I’ve teamed up with Coca-Cola, whose packaging can be recycled and reused again and again to make new packs. In theory, all of it should be recycled and none of it should become litter, helping to create a better future by recycling. They currently have a really impressive 25% rPET (recycled plastic for us none lingo-savvy beings) and they have made a commitment to reach 50% rPET by 2020 which is really rare for a large company and something that we want to get behind as much as possible.
Recycling doesn’t have to be boring, it doesn’t have to be like some kind of depressing skit where a knackered mum and dad are desperately trying to peel the plastic packaging away from the cardboard post birthday party, separating it with a scowl alongside the wrapping paper and piles of gaudy crap that their kids won’t play with but had to have. I get it, it’s just one more thing to add in to a list of “must do things” for a busy family and it’s something that we avoid because we’re under the impression that it will take more of our time and become an incumbrance, ruining our fast pace and convenience driven lifestyles… but it won’t.
Here are a few ideas of how you can make recycling more fun/out of the box and teach children all about it.
- Make it a family affair, you can do it all together. We start teaching the kids about the different bin colours right from as young as Edith’s age (3) and she knows which bin is for which material. It can be super fun and simple – you can use the bins to teach your children colours in general and then, as time goes on and they know which colours are which, perhaps you could try doing something like linking a colour to a favourite character. It can extend to whatever characters you like but it’s a really fun way to talk to the children about the different bins, which products go in there and most importantly, why we need to recycle. You can even look at what children’s TV and book characters are promoting recycling – there are so many out there and Edith is a big fan of several so we ask her how that character would behave and what they would do with their recyclable goods… it’s utilising media that is already available and has captured your child’s interest and heart for a great cause.
- Donate to children’s centres and schools. Every month the school sends home a request for craft supplies like cereal boxes, milk cartons, egg cartons… there is always something that they are lacking, so every time that this happens it is the perfect chance for us to recycle AND for us to teach the kids about recycling.
- Talk to your children in aquariums and zoos. Animals seem to suffer an inordinate amount from our plastic waste. It’s madness that animals suffer when we could easily recycle our plastic to brands like Coca-Cola who want to use their iconic brand influence to encourage more of us to recycle., They want our plastic, so when you take your kids to the aquarium, show them how affected different regions are and remind them that popping their plastic in a recycling bin helps the ocean life they love.
- Move your recycling bins closer to your doors in wet or wintery weather. I know a lot of people who say they don’t have recycling bins in their houses and they live right at the end of the drive or garden. Let’s all be honest, none of us are going to run outside in the blistering cold are we? No. So put them somewhere they can easily be reached or if you can’t do that, create a place for your kids to put their recyclables, like flattened cardboard boxes, and do a run out to the bin once a day.
- Try to buy recycled toys! Nothing screams fun to kids like toys, so a toy that has been made from recycled products is perfect!
- Lastly, and similarly to the crafting box, get creative! Reuse stuff! It sounds obvious but so many people don’t do it. We keep magazines so that the kids can cut out the pictures that they want and stick them, we reuse plastic bottles (such as milk bottles for a milk bottle igloo) and egg cartons for crafts – when we do them! What can you make together that is from your everyday products? I am not a crafty mum, not at all, but there are a million and one ideas for easy craft for cut up (and blunted) cans, wine bottles and even plastic bottles. As I mentioned, why have a go at making that igloo for your playroom or child’s bedroom out of milk bottles or perhaps you could use empty plastic bottles to make a plastic bottle bird feeder. Cut the top off a large bottle and cut so that it is wavy along the base then cut a hole in the bottom part of the bottle. Paint both the bottom half and the shaped top, fashion the shaped top over the bottom and glue in place. So simple but a really cute way to enjoy some crafting – I really recommend searching the web for ideas as there are some truly fabulous crafting blogs and webpages out there with thousands of unique and practical ideas or looking in craft books for brilliant ideas that are realistic and achievable for young children – and don’t forget to talk about what you are doing (recycling!) and why that is awesome!
So those are a few ideas for how we can recycle and get kids involved, which is all well and good but I want you to know that we are committed as a fambalam to recycling too, and you might sit and read this with a coffee thinking “well what changes has she made?”
Firstly, I always have 2/3 bottles in the car filled with water – reusable and disposable. The disposable ones are there in case the boys need the toilet on the motorway and there is nowhere safe to stop, I keep them and when the time comes I put them in a recycling bin.
We have become committed to reusable straws, which the kids absolutely love. Like most children with beakers as toddlers, they have become quite attached. We also have a craft cupboard filled with all the used-up bottles that we don’t want to recycle just yet. Easy fun! In fact we have plans through the summer holidays to make some wonderful crafts like the bird feeder I mentioned above and leaf/flower art – even down to making skittles with the bottles to play with in the garden!
I really want to encourage people to embrace recycling, it’s not something that is going to take up your time, not going to inconvenience you or being a pain, it’s a choice that will make the world better for our children, because we really are only caretakers for them and it’s our jobs to ensure that by the time they are care taking this planet for their children, they have a very different view on recycling than we do. The simplest and most effective way to ensure that change happens is by making recycling a family event, something that is fun and never laborious – never a chore, but just a part of everyday life and the way that our children are brought up.