1. Not knowing is okay!
Don’t be afraid to tell your kids you are unsure. Just because you are unsure about an item, doesn’t mean you are at a loss. We have knowledge at our fingertips— literally at our fingertips. A quick internet search can keep you educated. Teaching your kids to stay educated is huge for the sustainability movement. Whether you’re unsure about the recyclability of certain materials, laws in place, and new sustainable technology, it is always good to do your research and show your kids how to too. Another resource is calling your waste management company directly. What’s important is that you sort items correctly and doing 5 minutes worth of research can save hours of sorting in the future.
2. No plastic bags...EVER
Plastic bags can’t and will never be recyclable. Maybe that’s why every household has a stash of plastic bags inside other plastic bags hiding somewhere in a drawer or closet. This also means that anything inside a plastic bag meant for recycling, has to also be thrown out when it gets to the facility. So put your recyclables loose in a bin and toss those plastic bags into the trash (or in your stash).
3. Don’t recycle anything smaller than a dollar bill
Any recyclable item that is smaller than a dollar bill becomes too small to be sorted correctly at the waste management facility. This includes straws, bottle caps, k-cups, paper clips, etc. Especially something like a bottle cap, it can stop and start the sorting process a few times a day! If the bottle cap is put back on the bottle, it can be sorted with the bottle. It is important to note that all waste management companies are different and have different processes in place so double check before recycling something new.
4. Empty, Clean, Dry
Before tossing something into the recycling bin, make sure it is empty, clean, and dry. If you want to recycle a pizza box, make sure all the leftovers are out of it and there are no grease stains. How clean does it have to be? Clean enough where you would feel comfortable using it again for something else. For example, if you are cleaning out a peanut butter jar that is made out of recyclable material, make sure it is clean enough to where you feel comfortable putting something besides peanut butter in it next time.
4. It doesn’t end with recycling!
Recycling is only the beginning when it comes to sustainability. There are so many other things to be aware of and to teach your kids. Recycling is only the tip of the iceberg, so when you are teaching the next generation how to properly recycle, you don’t stop there.