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Better Recycling Through Better Education

August 20, 2020

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Kindergarten. Mrs Erickson's class.  I will never forget that day.  We got colored t-shirts in blue and red and green and yellow. They were covered in white outlines of trees and flowers.  

For me, that was 26 years ago.  Mrs. Erickson was also my sixth grade teacher. And my speech coach. And the director of the musicals I participated in. Teachers are like that; they are involved in our lives in so many ways outside of the classroom. Not only that, but they are with us through the most formative years of our lives.  And so are some of those lifelong lessons. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.

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Household recycling has evolved drastically over the last twenty six years. Nearly every driveway has two bins at the end of the driveway each week, not only one marked "TRASH." But it makes me wonder, has recycling education kept up with recycling expectations?

Paper, plastic and pop cans were the most discussed recycling items in Mrs. Erickson's Kindergarten class. I'd go so far as to say that my generation doesn't think twice about recycling those three items, we just do it.  But what about the new stuff?  Do we think twice before throwing away our dead curling iron or the random out of date gaming console in our basement? Do students today think of recycling only in terms of the worksheets they fill out in math class or do they also consider how to recycle the Chromebooks provided by their school and the charging cable and battery used to power it?

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Better recycling comes with better education. One day twenty six years ago started a lifelong understanding of the importance of recycling my pop bottles and milk cartons.  Let's pass that on to the next generation.  Day in and day out our students are using technology that is so commonplace they don't think twice about it.  Let's make sure they don't think twice about how to recycle it either.  Reach out to your local e-waste recycler (or me-video calls make education so much more accessible!) Give your students a tour of a recycling center. Show them the materials that make up their cellphone and computer. Make recycling as commonplace as the technology they hold in their hand.  

If there is one thing I took away from that recycling unit twenty six years's never too early to start. 


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