Should schools teach recycling?

In South Africa, especially Johannesburg area, waste management is becoming a pressing issue and there is mounting concerns for effective waste management systems as well as the implementation of strict regulations for recycling.

Recycling is a relatively new term in today’s society. South Africa is rapidly running out of landfill space. We need to find new ways of reducing the amount of waste we produce as a society. South Africa produces roughly 540 million tons of waste per year, of most is recyclable but still ends up in landfills, rather than in recycling centres where it can be put back into use.

Schools, being a centre of community and a hub for learning, need to introduce recycling to learners from grass root level. Behaviours taught at a young age will become ingrained and a cultural norm by the time they leave school. It is important to educate children about the state of the environment and how each one of us has an individual impact on the earth.

By involving learners at a school in the recycling programme you are directly influencing the future generation. Educating children on the importance of recycling and the environment paves a path to a greener future.

Up to 80% of the waste that is generated from schools is recyclable. These recyclables have a cash value and an average school generates about R1000 worth of white paper per month. Now, imagine the amount of litter that will be reduced and potential jobs created if all schools in South Africa were recycling, not to mention the myriad of other benefits for our society.

Schools are powerful in the transference of social norms and beliefs. It is well demonstrated that permanent attitudes and principles can be firmly established in children as they enter their teens. In that respect, we should be promoting and supporting education that cultivates positive environmental attitudes. 

The difficult part about implementing recycling in schools is it isn’t free. The lesson of being an environmental steward has a cost, just like learning how to swim or tapping into the internet. However that shouldn’t put us off as there are many ways to go around it to start recycling. For example, you can start by using alternative methods to hold the recyclables. Cardboard boxes are a great example that schools can use as their paper bins.

Recycling makes both financial and environmental sense as it stimulates the economy and conserves the environment. From an ethical and moral point of view, all sectors of society should be recycling, though it is even more important that schools teach their learners to separate their waste for recycling, as current generations will need to recycle if the massive environmental degradation is to be halted.

You might want to read about vegetable gardens at school.