Teaching Kids Proper Electronic Disposal and Recycling Practices

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Does each member of the family know which waste items from your kitchen are acceptable in your community recycling program? Congrats—your family has this recycling thing down! This is a huge step and a testament to your family’s teamwork and eco-dedication. But why stop there? There are still some random household items you may not know what to do with. To decode this confusion, become an expert on the greenest methods for battery recycling, electronic disposal, and health and beauty-product reuse.


Old batteries are often brushed off as garbage because they’re used so frequently and have such a specific purpose. But take a second look before putting them in your landfill bin. Rechargeable batteries, including alkaline replacements and those from tools, are often collected and recycled by local hardware stores. Button batteries containing mercury are hazardous waste, and many even have a warning on the packaging. Keep those to turn in at your community’s hazardous waste collection events.


The more common alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) are often deemed safe, but the fact that places like California aren’t happy with them in their landfills might suggest otherwise. While it’s best to make an effort to recycle them, it may be hard to find a place to accept these abundant power sources. Be sure to check before you show up, and some stores may have a drop-off bin too.

Once you have located places that will accept your used batteries, set specific, labeled places in your home for your family to collect them. Make sure everyone is aware of your collection location, and put someone in charge of delivery to the recycling location. Keep it lighthearted, and consider small rewards for spreading awareness. If a member of your family teaches someone else to recycle batteries instead of putting them in the landfill bin, give that eco-warrior a prize or a free pass from chores, for example.



Admittedly, your kids are more likely to let you know when their electronic devices have gone bad and are in need of disposal. Thus, it should be easier to make sure these discards don’t end up in the landfill bin. So when your tablet, phone, or laptop is beyond repair, teach your youngster the best way to get rid of it.

Many big box stores that sell electronics will collect old or damaged products. Check the service desk or store website for more information on those programs. Electronic devices are generally not landfill-safe because many contain small amounts of hazardous chemicals, but they also contain precious metals and small parts that can be harvested, recycled, and reused. Most solid waste districts hold an annual electronics recycling event where these items are collected.

Once you’ve identified your electronic disposal location, designate a place in your house (maybe next to your battery collection bin) to store items before they’re dropped off. An old drawer for old electronics could work, if you want to avoid creating counter clutter. Make sure your family knows these locations, their proper use, and why it’s important to use them.

Beyond Electronics


Beyond our overworked electronics, there are other everyday items that can be recycled. Toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, deodorant applicators, and other natural care products and their packaging can be recycled for free through the TerraCycle partnership with Tom’s of Maine. Find an existing drop-off location nearby, or even create a new location in your community to get others involved. These waste items can all be collected and shipped in the same container. Consider ordering Oral Care Waste and Packaging Zero Waste Boxes for recycling (or just for everyday use). You can add another labeled recycling box to your “beyond the curb” recycling location to make sure your kids know how to use it.

Does your family know where to recycle electronics? Do you recycle your toothbrushes? What else do you recycle that’s not collected curbside? Let us know on Twitter!

Image sources: Maureen Wise | Pixabay | Wikimedia Commons

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

By recycling more than just what is collected through your community's recycling program, you're doing a lot to help the Earth. Many electronics and batteries contain hazardous materials that shouldn't be in the landfill. Health and beauty products (and their packaging) along with electronics contain valuable components that can be reused and recycled.