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Oregon Family Magazine

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse with Kids

04/01/2016 ● By Sandy Kauten
Plastic is bad – paper is good!

Collecting aluminum cans pays!

Dumping motor oil is a criminal offense!

Never use Styrofoam! It takes 500 years to breakdown in a landfill.

These were things we learned in school when recycling first came of age. Recycling has come a long way in the last decade.

Plastics, including grocery bags can be recycled these days.

Types of plastics are numbered by recycling experts, for example plastic gaps are plastic #2 and #4, requiring different machinery and processes to breakdown.

Plastic bags are often controversial. In some communities, they have been banned all together. Your best option may be specific recycling programs that focus exclusively on them. Many grocery stores collect plastic bags while some city recycling programs offer plastic bag pick-up or drop-off programs.

Paper, perceived as environmentally friendly is actually more complicated to recycle than you might think. Shredding paper reduces the quality and subsequently the value of the paper. Shredding paper turns it from high grade (letterhead and printer paper) to mixed grade, which includes telephone books and magazines.

Paper food containers pose another problem.

Your pizza box may have a recycling symbol on it but the grease may be an issue for recycling machinery.

Many liquids can be handled at your recycling center.

Used motor oil is also accepted when placed in its original container or an empty plastic 1-gallon milk or water bottle.

Even Styrofoam is recyclable.

Today, Styrofoam (Plastic #6) can be recycled with special machinery. Check with your local recycling center. Send it to the landfill, it does take half a millennium to decompose.


No recycling program works more effectively than reducing waste and reusing or re-purposing items as appropriate.

Parents can play a pivotal role by changing their family culture to one of reducing waste through these simple suggestions. Making reducing waste can be fun and healthy.

Buy a stainless steel water bottle for every family member. Bling them with notions of your choice as a family art project. While decorating them you can discuss how plastic water bottles are wasteful. You can even help them do the math.

  • Start a home composting bin and in time plant a tree using the compost as fertilizer.
  • Eliminate grocery store bags from your lives by purchasing and using canvas bags for all shopping.
  • Go paperless on all your accounts. Your daily mail call will be reduced too. Let your kids know about the change you made.
  • Cut up old clothes for cleaning rags instead of using paper towels. Get the kids involved by having them cut the rags into fun shapes.
  • Investigate the use of natural cleaners. Kids might enjoy making the mixtures and actually help with the cleaning. Several websites can give parents ideas.

Laura Lyles Reagan is a social issues and family freelance writer. She is the proud mom of two socially conscious daughters. She can be reached for comment or parent coaching sessions through her website,