What it means: When you recycle something, it ends up at a recycling center instead of a landfill (garbage dump). It gets taken apart, broken down into its raw materials, and turned into new stuff.
Why it's important: A lot of what ends up in garbage dumps is garbage in name only. Look at it another way, and that "garbage" is actually a precious resource: tons of glass, metal, wood, plastic-everything we need to make new products, just taking up space in a landfill!
Recycling is important because it accomplishes two goals at once: It saves space in landfills and it reclaims resources and raw materials that would otherwise have to be found somewhere else.
Ways You Can Help:
Maximize your recycling! Participate in your community's curbside recycling program by putting absolutely everything that's allowed into the recycling bin instead of the trashcan. Find out what can be recycled by contacting your local sanitation department; often this information is on a Web site or flyers sent out to the public. When it comes to plastic and Styrofoam, check the container for the recycling symbol and a number; your community may only accept certain types. For a fun way to recycle, challenge your family to get more into the recycling bin than the garbage can (following your community's recycling guidelines, of course). If you can recycle more than you trash for a month, treat yourselves to a special family outing.
Help start a recycling program. If your community doesn't have curbside recycling, ask why! Get a petition going, or ask a parent to help contact somebody in your local government. In the meantime, you can still recycle by getting your own bin and taking things like paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic to the nearest recycling facility.
Recycle when you're away from home. Out and about with friends and family, we often find ourselves using stuff like fast-food containers, drink bottles and cans, and plastic bags-all materials that can be recycled. Whether you're at the mall, the movies, the state fair -- wherever! -- look for a marked recycling bin (usually blue or green, with a recycle symbol on it) or ask someone who would know. If there's no recycling, consider taking these materials home with you to recycle there.
Buy recycled. When shopping, look for a label that says, "Made from recycled materials." If companies know you care, they'll be encouraged to use and sell more recycled products. These days, you can buy all sorts of great recycled stuff, such as clothing, backpacks, purses, jewelry, and more.
Recycle your tech. Old unwanted electronics, like cell phones and computers, are called "e-waste." E-waste often contains toxic and hazardous materials, and should never end up in a landfill. Find out about your community's program for recycling e-waste, and make sure to take it all in. If you've outgrown your devices but they still work, see if you can donate them to a school or charity program.
Bash hazardous trash. Many types of waste, like old paint, paint thinner, batteries, and other types of chemicals, can't be thrown in the regular trash. Safely store these things and bring them to your area's hazardous waste pick-up location. They'll recycle or dispose of it in a safe way that won't harm the environment.
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