Tips To Teach Children Proper Waste Segregation

Wet Or Dry? Teach Your Child Proper Waste Segregation Through These Unique Tricks

Our planet is in trouble and we, our children included, need to do everything we can to change the status quo.

How bad are things, really?

As recently as 2018, the World Bank stated urban areas generate more than 2 billion tons of solid waste every year. Even more shocking is the institution’s prediction that the 2 billion tons could increase by 70% by 2050. The evidence is clear. We need to educate our communities about generating less waste, improve the way we manage the waste we produce, and recycle when- and wherever possible.

Waste management through segregation and recycling is not something that we can leave to garbage collection services or recycling centers. It begins at home, and our children need to learn about the importance of proper waste segregation as soon as possible. One of the best approaches you can take when teaching your children about this important topic is to help them learn through play.

Here’s how to teach your child proper waste segregation:

Start With The Three Rs

Base your waste segregation and recycling education on the three of the nine Rs enumerated by Greenpeace: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce – Teach your children to reduce the amount of waste they produce, whether it be plastic, paper, cardboard, CO2 emissions, or other materials or substances.
Reuse – We live in a throwaway culture. It’s easier to throw away items rather than giving them a second chance. Encourage your children to find new purposes for items instead of disposing of them.
Recycle – Teach your children to recycle the waste they cannot reduce or reuse.

The following tips and tricks can help you instill these principles into your children while showing them how easy it is to segregate and recycle waste properly.

1. Scavenger Hunt At The Grocery Store

Take your children to the grocery store for a scavenger hunt that can educate them about avoiding products that generate waste. Ask them to find five items, such as food packaging, that create too much waste. Then ask them to find alternative products that generate less waste.

Make it even more exciting for them by offering a tasty, healthy snack (with minimum-waste packaging) as a prize for their efforts.

2. Visit A Recycling Center

Take your children on a field trip with a difference. Visit a local recycling center and let them watch the trash arriving and how it gets sorted and processed. They’ll get a clear idea of how much waste is generated in the area, and they’ll see how much gets recycled. They’ll also learn about the importance of segregating waste properly at home.

Contact the center and ask them if a manager or another employee can give you and your children a tour of the facility and explain some of the processes before traveling. If there isn’t a recycling center nearby, use this colorful infographic to give your children a glimpse into facilities that recycle waste.

3. Make DIY Recycling Bins

Give your children an arts and crafts project of making DIY recycling bins for your home. You’ll need a few cardboard boxes, colored duct tape, scissors, and colored markers and/or stickers.

Reinforce the boxes by covering the outside with two layers of duct tape. Decorate the boxes using markers and/or stickers, and label them according to their intended purpose (paper, plastic, metal, glass). Keep the boxes indoors and ask your children to find recyclable waste and place it in their new DIY recycling bins.

4. Waste Reduction Investigators

Play a waste reduction investigator game to help teach your children about minimizing household waste. Spend a few days setting aside various trash items in a separate bin. Include a mix of items, such as cardboard packaging, plastic packaging from food, paper, food scraps that aren’t too messy, and other bits and pieces that would normally end up in the trash can.

When you have a good collection of waste, give your child a pair of rubber gloves and ask them to investigate the special bin and to find items that could be removed from the trash for recycling purposes. Ask your child to identify alternatives to throwing away each of the items they find, such as composting, buying other products that generate less waste, or recycling.

This is also a great way to teach them to always look for the environmentally-friendly option when shopping. This can apply to everything, from food to larger necessary purchases like mattresses, furniture, and appliances too.

5. Make Seed Paper

Teach your children the importance of separating used paper from other recyclable trash by collecting and using it to create seed paper cards for themselves, friends, and family. They can plant the card in the ground or in a pot, water it, and see beautiful flowers grow from it.

You’ll need 1½ cups of shredded used paper (newspaper, tissue paper, phone book pages, paper grocery bags, scraps of unprinted computer paper, and/or egg cartons) per card, warm water, a blender, a teaspoon of wildflower seeds, a strainer, a bath towel/flannel cloth/absorbent microfiber cloth, a spatula, a sponge, and colorful markers.

Half-fill the blender jar with shredded paper and add warm water until it reaches the top. Blend the paper shreds and water into a pulp with the blender on the lowest setting for 10 seconds. Increase the setting to a higher speed for another 30 seconds. Continue for a few more seconds if you can still see paper flakes in the pulp.

Switch off the blender and stir a teaspoon of wildflower seeds into the pulp. Place the pulp in a strainer and press it to remove as much water as possible. Lay out a towel, flannel, or microfiber cloth, and use a spatula to spread and flatten the mixture into the desired shape on the towel. Use a sponge to further flatten the pulp and to soak up more water. Leave the pulp to dry on one side and then turn it over and allow the other side to dry completely. Use markers to decorate and write on the seed paper cards.

Children Go Green

Whether a scavenger hunt, a field trip, or arts and crafts, entertaining activities are a wonderful way to teach your child proper waste segregation. When you’ve completed the above activities, see if you or your children can come up with other fun ways to help protect the planet.


Written by: Jessica Romero