New York Kids Get A Hands-On Lesson In Recycling

Tired of nagging the kids to sort out recyclables? Big Apple parents, take note: the world’s first roving “Recyclarium” trailer may be appearing soon at your kids’ school to give them a hands-on lesson in green.

This Recylarium is, essentially, a trailer that has been converted into a mobile education center. Funded by the Sanitation Department and designed by Sims Municipal Recycling — a New York City contractor that handles curbside pick up of metal, glass and plastic recyclables in the city — the education center features fun, interactive games designed to teach kids about sustainability and the importance of conserving resources. It debuted in the first week of August at PS 63 in Manhattan, where students recently launched a composting pilot to reduce waste, and will now travel from school to school.

Recyclarium New York

image via Inhabitat

While helping to educate kids about the importance of recycling, the Recyclarium will also function as a quasi-research and development facility designed to test exhibits and games. By taking note of what kinds of activities hit home with the kids across the spectrum of New York’s public schools, both Sims and the City hope to improve the way that it teaches young people about what goes in the recycling bin, and why. The Recyclarium program is offered in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, which is targeting a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions for the city by 2017.

Inside the Recyclarium, young people will find wheels to turn and doors to open that reveal what recyclables are made of, how they are processed and how they can be used. The “Take-Back/Donate” section of the trailer shows what items can’t be recycled at curbside, such as electronics, but can be reused or recycled if they are brought to a designated location (thereby helping to reduce the evils of e-waste). Between 10 and 15 kids can fit comfortably inside the trailer at the same time, and the exhibits were designed to take around a half hour for each student to explore.

The trailer represents the combined recycling services provided by the Sims Metal Management Limited family of companies to New York, which are extensive, to say the least. These companies — which include Sims Metal Management and Sims Municipal Recycling, the processor of New York City’s curbside metal, glass and plastic recyclables — recycle everything from automobiles and bridges to bottles and smartphones.

The Recylarium intersects nicely with Sims’s new recycling facility, currently under development at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, as the facility will include classroom space where New York schoolchildren will also gain first-hand experience with the recycling process. The Department of Education is in on this effort, and is currently developing a curriculum where kids will learn the theory of recycling in class, then see how recycling takes place, via field-trips to the facility. One to two classes are expected to visit the recycling plant each day; bus parking has been accounted for in the plant’s design plans.

As Inhabitat points out, getting young people excited about recycling is one way to ensure that the rising generation has a better handle on the lifecycle of products than our own does — which, in turn, carries the promise of reducing waste and making sustainability commonsense in the future. New York City’s integrated recycling curriculum seems a solid step in that direction.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.