As with reducing, reusing, and any type of conservation, less waste translates into less pollution, a cleaner planet, and better health.
Dropping Pounds of Pollution
Using products made from virgin materials instead of recycled materials creates much more pollution. Pollution is created from mining or logging and from shipping, processing, and packaging. Seventy-one garbage cans of waste and pollution are created from the extractive and industrial processes necessary for making new products for every one can of garbage you put at the curb. Keep that 71:1 ratio in mind. Making paper from paper, aluminum from aluminum, glass from glass, and plastic from plastic is much easier on the Earth than drilling for oil, clearcutting a rain forest, or mining for ore. Two more statistics to keep in mind as examples:
Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 60 pounds of air pollution.
Recycling glass reduces mining waste by 70 percent and air pollution by 20 percent.
The garbage you create leaves a long trail of garbage and pollution that are contaminating the air you breathe, the water you drink, and even the food you eat.
Household Hazardous Waste
Almost everyone has household hazardous waste. This includes things such as cleaners, nail polish, paint, and oil. They are materials that can make people very sick if they are used incorrectly. With the rise in allergies and asthma, many families are trying to steer clear of products that are considered hazardous waste. If you have products that are considered household hazardous waste, it's important to know how to safely dispose of them.
Children should never handle hazardous waste. As you learn about these products, remind your students to be good label readers and to stay away from products that have label warnings. If their parents have to use something that has a warning label, children should avoid the area, and windows should be opened for proper ventilation.
Guess what! Some of them can be recycled! For example, used motor oil can be cleaned and reused. Don't ever pour it down a drain or onto the ground because it ends up polluting drinking water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “you pour it, you drink it!” Another common household hazardous waste that can be recycled is old paint. You can call the local solid waste office to find out how to dispose of household hazardous waste safely and to drop off products to be recycled. Also, you can use these locations to pick up paint or other supplies (like varnishes and glues) that you may need for a project.
Learn to identify hazardous products by learning the meanings of the signal words found on them.
Poison is the most hazardous level. It means a product is extremely toxic. Poisonous materials can cause injury or death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
Danger means that a product is highly toxic, highly flammable, or highly corrosive.
Warning and Caution both indicate that a product is toxic, corrosive, reactive, or flammable.
You can research the safety of things you have around your house by using the Household Products Database at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov. If you want to show the kids how to use it, bring in some of your own products or clip pictures out of magazines and then look up the safety of the product. This website and www.healthychild.org are great to share with parents.
Don't know how or where or if you can recycle something? Earth911 (http ://earth911.com) is the premier resource for finding the facts on recycling. It couldn't be any easier. Just enter your Zip Code or search by product type to find out if and where you can recycle. No more excuses!