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Plastic Recycling for Kids

A Guide to Plastic Recycling for Kids

July 20, 2022 - Jenny Tsui

Plastic pollution is a huge problem for our planet today. Every year, humans produce an astounding amount of plastic waste – around 300 million tonnes of it! This plastic builds up in our landfills and oceans, lasting for hundreds to thousands of years. To celebrate Plastic Free July –  here’s a simple guide to plastic recycling for kids.

We all need to work together to fight plastic pollution. There are many ways that we can do so, including plastic recycling. When we recycle, we turn plastic waste into new products. By doing so, we help reduce the amount of plastics ending up in landfills and in the ocean, saving a lot of emissions and lowering threats to biodiversity, humans, and the environment. Recycling also helps to save energy, as less energy is needed in recycling plastic than in manufacturing new plastic items. 

Given all the benefits of recycling, you may wonder why we don’t simply recycle all of our plastic waste. The problem is, not everything that is made of plastic is recyclable. For example, straws cannot be recycled, and neither can the packaging of potato chip bags and food wrappers! We know that recycling can be confusing – therefore, we’ve prepared an easy guide to plastic recycling for kids.

Tips for Plastic Recycling for Kids

Have you ever noticed a number marking on a plastic item? Plastics are usually marked with a recycling symbol and a number from 1 to 7. This number tells us about the type of chemicals used in making the plastic, and how recyclable it is.

Plastic Recycling for Kids

Plastic Identification Codes. Photo by Jack Wong (Pinterest)

Some types of plastic are more easily recycled than others. When recycling plastic, it is important to keep in mind four things:

  1. In general, the lower the number, the more recyclable it is. Plastic numbers #1 and #2, which include items such as water bottles and shampoo bottles, are widely recycled in many countries. Plastic numbers #4 to #6 are more difficult to recycle and may only be accepted by special recycling centres, while plastic numbers #3 and 7 are generally not recyclable at all! However, these practices may differ from city to city, so it is a good idea to check with your local recycler to see which items can be placed in the recycling bin.
  2. Items that are not marked with numbers should not be placed in recycling bins. This includes items like plastic bags. However, some grocery and retail stores may collect plastic bags for recycling, depending on where you live.1
  3. Dirty plastic cannot be recycled, so it is important to wash bottles and containers before placing them in the recycling bin. Otherwise, your leftover food, drink, or shampoo could contaminate the recycled plastic.
  4. Don’t put small pieces of plastic into the recycling bin, as they may contaminate the recycling equipment. As a good rule of thumb, any piece of plastic that is smaller than an ID card should be thrown away in the trash. This includes items such as plastic straws and utensils. However, some recycling programs do collect these items, so it is a good idea to check with your local recycler.

Check This Out Next: 7 Facts About Ocean Plastic Pollution for Kids

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About the Author

Jenny Tsui

Jenny is a writer and editor in the field of education. She is an aspiring environmentalist who hopes to inspire young learners to care for the planet – one article at a time!