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How to Teach Children About Metal Recycling

Posted on 27 October 2016

Simply from an eco-conscious perspective, metal recycling has implications for the whole family. And if it’s to be a family effort, it will naturally include the kids. Whatever the motivation behind recycling, parents should definitely pass on the commitment to their kids. Educating kids about metal recycling is just good education – there’s the idea of reducing garbage; there’s a personal sense of protecting the environment; and there’s a long-term vision for keeping the water and air clean. Overall, it’s a sense of responsibility that will set the stage for the next generation.

Most children are already growing up in households where metal recycling (and glass and paper) is part of the day-to-day routine. They understand that recycling is necessary and helpful, but not all of them understand the wherefores. And while the subject of recycling is quite widespread in elementary grades, the best practical education starts right at home. It’s the best way to teach the kids about the process of metal recycling, the different approaches to collection, and the various ways that recycling companies sort metals into types, and prepare for re-manufacturing.

It’s not a bad idea to teach some economics here as well. For example, the concept of being paid for collecting aluminum often creates added enthusiasm with kids. It’s also important for them to understand about the economic savings, particularly with metal recycling – the idea that recycling reduces the need to mine virgin ore, and that re-manufactured goods actually save energy. One sure way to instill the economics message is to create a home-based program where waste metal materials are collected, and delivered to a scrap metal yard for real dollar compensation.

Depending on the age of a child, it may also be appropriate to illustrate the difference between ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. This is a great way to learn about the different types of metals, and how they must be sorted prior to recycling. Sorting also helps to identify the specific metal – like copper, aluminum, brass, and steel. In fact, a simple walk about the house will quickly reveal all of the sources of metal – everything from white appliances (steel) to plumbing fixtures (copper) to screen doors (aluminum). Indeed, every house is full of potential metal waste.

For many parents, taking the kids to the heart of the action is the best way to educate. It might be a visit to the local recycling centre, or a trip to the local scrap yard, but either one is perfect for getting a better understanding of the recycling process from end to end. For older children, this experience can motivate their commitment to continue with responsible recycling day after day. Also part of the experience is the sheer volume of metal being recycled – it vividly highlights the amount of waste that won’t go to landfill, and how much virgin ore doesn’t need to be mined.

Today’s children are tomorrow’s consumers – and that means that educating today will change things tomorrow – and for the better.

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