Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Last week, we introduced you to our “It’s Easy Being Green” program with the Farm to Table card game. Students also play another exciting green game in this program, a recycling relay race. New York City produces 14 million tons of waste and recyclables every year and nearly half of that gets recycled. We can do better!  PlaNYC’s goal is for us to divert 75% of our trash from landfills by 2030.

Every household, business, and school in the city is required to recycle by law. The city usually picks up recycling once a week from your curb. You can look up your pick-up day here. Now, it’s just time to sort…an activity that isn’t always as intuitive as you’d think.

For our recycling challenge, we split kids into two teams and give each team three bins: Paper & Cardboard/ Glass, Metal & Plastic/Trash.  Each group gets a bag full of mixed (clean) trash and recyclables. Each child in the group studies the NYC handy dandy recycling fridge magnet and then sorts one waste item into a bin. To make this activity more exciting, each student must wait until the previous student places their item and returns to their seat before they can place their own item in the proper bin. The two teams race to the finish, but of course, it’s a race of accuracy rather than speed. We then go through each bin item by item. If an opposing team thinks an item has been placed incorrectly, they can hold up a hand and say “I Object!”. We talk through the  discrepancy and make sure the item makes it to the proper bin.

Are you recycling savvy? Take our little quiz to find out!

Q 1: Where would you put a yogurt container? 

Yogurt containers can’t be recycled- only 1 & 2 plastic bottles and jugs can be recycled. What if it has a 1 or 2 on it but isn’t a bottle or jug? Nope, won’t work. The plastic in 1 & 2 take-out containers, soup containers, or cups  can’t be melted down with 1 & 2 bottles & jugs. Tricky stuff! Read more on plastics here.

Q2: Does it matter if your recyclables are gunky? 

Yes! Rinse your items before you throw them in the bin. If your recyclables are too gunky, the may be considered “contaminated” and not recycled.

Q3: Do you have to put your recyclables in a clear bag, won’t a black bag do?

When you place your recyclables on the curb, they need to be in a clear plastic bag OR tossed in a bin labeled with an NYC Recycling sticker (but no black bags) . Fill out this form to request recycling decals for your bins.

Q4: Can lids be recycled? 

Recycle metal lids, but toss the plastic ones.

If you ever have a question about any item, NYC WasteLess has an awesome search bar. Enter any item, and it’ll tell you how to dispose of it properly.

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Last month, we got kids thinking about where their trash ends up with Trash Talk and Loop Scoops. But let’s start at the beginning. Where does our food come from? How many places does the slice of cheese on our burger see before it ends up on our plate?

At Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we teach a program for school groups called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” We cover topics like proper recycling, energy efficiency, and sustainable food choices. The food activity splits kids into groups; each group is responsible for piecing together the life cycle of one ingredient on a burger. They’re given cards that each represent one phase in, for instance, the journey of a slice of cheese. Take a look:

The journey starts here at “Sunset Farm”. But why are we starting on a corn field if we’re trying to get to a slice of cheese? 

To feed the cows! Unfortunately, most cows in the US are fed corn rather than the tasty grass that their stomachs were built to digest. The cow’s milk then has to be transported to the cheese factory. That’s two big truck rides so far for one slice of cheese!

The cheese then gets stored in a large warehouse with other grocery goods. 

A truck picks up the cheese from the warehouse and takes it to the grocery store where it’s stocked on shelves and finally awaits your purchase.

Your cheeseburger can now be assembled and enjoyed! And now what? What about the packaging your cheese slice came wrapped up in? What about all your other food scraps? Where do they end up? 

Most of the time, they end up in a landfill.

Now, here’s the challenge: After students have pieced together the journey of their cheese (there are twenty cards or steps for the cheese alone!) they have to figure out how to remove pieces of the production-distribution-consumption-waste system to make the whole thing more sustainable. How can we get this slice of cheese to travel less? This activity can lead to great discussions on Farmer’s Markets, local food, and composting.

Want to try this activity with your class? Email GoGreen[at]Brooklynkids.org for a PDF version of the full set of Hamburger life cycle cards!

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We’ve covered trash in the past and most kids know the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” well, but do they really understand why it’s so important to reduce our waste? When you talk through the path trash takes from lunch to landfill, kids can easily see the problem, but it’s often something they’ve never thought about until you get those wheels turning! These awesome videos called LOOP SCOOPS from PBS Kids and the Story of Stuff Project could be really useful helpers in the discussion.


Let’s start with this question. Where does your trash from lunch go? Hopefully those candy bar wrappers and juice boxes end up in a trash can. And then what happens to it? The garbage truck takes it away. Where? Here’s where you may encounter some blank stares…but some might say dump or landfill. Now really, what is a landfill? It’s a big hole on the ground all sealed up to keep the toxic nasty things in our trash from getting into our soil and water (sometimes they leak!). So here’s the big riddle: What’s the problem with landfills if we can’t reuse or recycle everything we buy and use in our daily lives? They fill up of course!

Did you know we’ve filled up all our landfills in New York City? We have NO LANDFILLS and NO INCINERATORS. Since 2001, we’ve been exporting all of our trash to other states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.

After your class eats lunch,  get them to sort their waste. Does it all need to go in the trash? What can be composted, recycled or reused? Is there anything we could do to avoid the trash that’s left over?

In Loop Scoops, Brad avoids contributing to the 4 Billion Juice boxes that end up landfills by drinking his juice from a reusable bottle, Oliver and Gabby learn about the metals in their DS game device and decide to hold off on buying the newest edition, and Ben goes for fresh squeezed vs prepackaged orange juice.

Check out these other great resources for teaching waste management:

NYC RRResource Guide

Trash FlipBook

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This week at the Museum, we have a plethora of sustainability themed programming all leading up to our Earth Day celebration next weekend.

Throughout the week, there will be eco-art projects for all ages where kids can use recycled materials to make beautiful sculptures.

On Wednesday, explore our geothermal exhibit and experiment with water, hoses, and coils to learn how we use the temperature of the earth under the museum to heat or cool our building!

Visit Thursday to learn why Bamboo is a sustainable choice for floors, furniture, and even clothes. Come down to the Greenhouse to make your own Bamboo cutting to take home!

Visit Friday to learn how dams can damage ecosystems by rerouting natural waterways. Build your own dam in Neighborhood Nature.

Enjoy our special Live Animal Encounters throughout the week. We’ll be focusing of native critters, endangered animals, and invasive species.

We also have a very special Animal Encounter next Saturday. Drop by the garden and meet the chickens of BK Farmyards! These soft red beauties will eat greens out of your hand or sit in your lap if you dare!

Check out our full Calendar of Events.

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During spring break next week, BCM is teaming up with Capstone Wireless to collect old and used cell phones (and accessories) to help reduce e-waste in New York and around the world. E-waste is one of the largest and most toxic polluters. In many countries, the process of recycling or disposing of electronics puts workers and communities at serious health risk. Precious metals can be harvested and sorted from old electronics but if not done safely, the process of reclaiming these metals from computers, televisions, cell phones, and other electronics can release dangerous toxins directly into the air and into ground water sources.

We can help by making sure our electronics are recycled in a responsible and safe way. Capstone has e-steward certification meaning that they display a “commitment to best management practices for electronics recycling and reuse”. Read more about e-steward certification here. Watch this video about the global problem of e-waste and how the e-stewards program is trying to help.

Remember, a great way to reduce e-waste is to consume less to begin with! Choose to get your electronics repaired before rushing out for that new upgrade. If your visiting the museum or just in the neighborhood from April 7th-15th, come contribute your old cell phones and accessories to our collection bin in the lobby.

If you have other e-waste to recycle, check out the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s new E-waste Warehouse in Gowanus where any New York resident, small businesses, or non-profit organizations can drop-off unwanted electronics for free.

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