How to teach children about recycling with games, projects and ideas

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Philippe Gloaguen
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How to teach children about recycling

A few days ago while I was playing frantically with my three year old son I threw it in the bag of the undifferentiated garbage a plastic bottle. My little boy looked at me outraged and scolded me saying that that was plastic and is not thrown away with other rubbish. He went to take the bottle from the bag and placed it in the plastic basket we have in the house. Since we had never talked about it I did mea culpa and I asked him who had explained to him where the plastic should be thrown and he replied "the teacher!". A small introduction to this article in which we want to tell you all the ways to teach children about recycling to understand that theenvironmental education starts from the first years of life: children grow up following our example (and that of the reference adults who are important to them, like the teachers) and to build a better world and a more sustainable future for them we must also actively involve them in waste management from an early age.





Recycling education

Recycling education therefore begins at an early age, but how to do it? Here are some tips.



  • Engage them by making them feel great: children love to feel grown up and involved in adult things, so you make the management of household waste seem like a relevant issue reserved especially for adults;
  • tell them how objects are transformed: "If you throw away this plastic bottle, very experienced gentlemen will pick it up and transform it into something else, for example this ball you love to play with"
  • let them experiment: let the children touch the various materials, paper, glass and plastic, making them discover different textures to the touch and prepare some baskets that you will keep in the house easily accessible for them;
  • ask the children to personalize with drawings the baskets for separate waste collection.

Recycling told to children

explain recycling to children we must not use too technical terms but simple words by making practical examples and using drawings and illustrations. Let's start from paper: we tell that a woodcutter goes into the woods to cut wood with which, in the factory, sheets of paper are made. It certainly isn't nice to cut a tree to get paper! Recycling serves precisely to avoid this operation because the paper that has already been used can be reused and transformed into new paper to be used again.



And the glass? Here too it takes a lot of people, a lot of energy and a lot of money to produce the glass. Many workers collect sand which is transferred to a large factory that uses a lot of energy to make the glass, but if instead we we recycle the bottles and glass jars after using them will be processed to be transformed into new glass.

Children's waste cycle

How to make the little ones understand how the waste and recycling cycle works without using too technical and therefore boring language? We can also use a short cartoon made by Ivy

Games for children on separate waste collection

To help children understand how materials can have a new life, just involve them directly in the creation of games with salvaged items: instead of throwing them away we will use them to build small toys or useful objects with gods creative recycling jobs or we can create some sort of treasure hunt for recyclable objects to involve children in their battle against landfills.

Some examples:

  • The aluminum trays and plastic bottles can become a seedbed where we will grow small aromatic plants or legumes;
  • jobs with toilet paper rolls: like these cute Christmas characters created by Mammaacs that can also be made for other occasions
  • Recycled DIY stamps: paper and cardboard, caps, plastic and glass packaging, usually find interesting new uses
  • The cleaning game: it is a real board game in which 2-4 players can participate with a deck of cards representing waste, dice and a colored board.

Recycling projects

Finally here are some projects aimed at environmental education in schools which have at the center of their activities the recycling of waste.

  • "Together we make the world more beautiful": is a project promoted by Garnier and Carrefour with the MOIGE in favor of the education of primary school children on the subject of separate collection and recycling of packaging. During the three-year period 2022-2022 500 school complexes will be involved and 150.000 children will be trained. In 2022, 60.000 children from 200 schools were trained and the results were encouraging: 77% of children declared that they paid more attention to correct sorting and consequently recycled more.
  • Comieco regularly organizes projects in schools to find out how paper and cardboard are recycled
  • Friend of the environment: the recycling project aims at the collection of plastic materials classified as polyethylene and polypropylene that can come from bottle caps, fruit and vegetable crates, vases and saucers for flowers or pallets and was designed by companies that operate for years in the industrial sector of reuse of plastic materials. It can offer guided visits to the processing plants for recycled products;
  • Conai, the National Packaging Consortium, together with Corriere della Sera brings to schools a project aimed at educating and sensitizing primary school children on the importance of recycling waste with the project "Recycling in the classroom". A playful-creative path that aims to promote legality and citizenship starting from a practical theme such as the correct separate collection and recycling of packaging waste that children commonly find at home to protect food or other products such as steel, aluminum, paper , wood, plastic and glass.
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