Lets Waste Less Blog

June 2020: How “pester power” is leading recycling in the home

It will come as no surprise to parents that children these days are more environmentally aware than they ever were.  With more exposure to social media and the rise of teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, this has helped drive the attitudes of children towards sustainability issues.

Children are very enthusiastic about the environment and it provides local authorities with an opportunity to teach more about what they can be doing to improve their  recycling at home – even if it’s as simple as remembering to recycle a can instead of just throwing it away.

At Worcestershire County Council the Lets Waste Less volunteers have been doing a lot of work in schools around both recycling and composting; teaching children at an early age how to be more environmentally aware and as we change generations, the hope is that the Year 1 & 2 children now will become the managers of the future and influence further what we do with our waste.

school kids recycling


A recent poll by the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association of 2,000 parents of school-aged children found that 41% believe that its really their children who influence the recycling and sustainability attitudes in their homes.

43% have faced a telling off from their offspring for not “making more effort” with the recycling – an average of three times a week.  And of those told off, 56% have been reprimanded for throwing something like a can in the bin instead of recycling it, while four in 10 have had words for buying items in non-recyclable packaging.

Another 35% have been reprimanded by youngsters for not washing out cans or jars properly before putting them out with the recycling.  And while 28% of those who have been ‘eco-shamed’ by their children felt ashamed and 33% felt guilty, four in 10 were proud of them for picking them up on it.

cleaning jam jars for recycling

More than a third were also happy that their children cared so much about the environment.

Two thirds of parents think their children’s eco-education comes from school, while another fifth put it down to simple internet research.  But a third say their children ‘look up to’ Greta Thunberg, leading to a passion for being green.

Almost half (45%) of parents are even influenced by their kids to ‘think green’ when food shopping, with more than half encouraged by their offspring to buy items in packaging like cans or cardboard which can be recycled.

However, despite the prompting from their children, one in five parents often throw things out that could be recycled because they’re confused about what can and can’t go in the green bin.

And almost half of those polled, via OnePoll, even admitted they sometimes throw recyclable items out with the residual waste because it is “easier” than trying to work out whether it can be recycled.

And 46% have binned a can because they “couldn’t be bothered” to wash it out, even though four in 10 are aware that this “isn’t essential to the recycling process”, the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association says.

sorting through household recycling items

The MPMA’s spokesman added: “Even now, there’s a lot of confusion among consumers about what counts as recyclable waste. Things like cans of paint, old technology like phones and keyboards, and even trays from fruit punnets leave millions in a flap. This is why it’s so important that the younger generation keeps up their interest in helping save the planet – beginning with their own homes.”

The top 10 things parents don’t know whether to recycle or not

  1. Wine corks
  2. Metal paint cans
  3. Fruit punnets
  4. Batteries
  5. Old technology like phones or keyboards
  6. Butter pots
  7. Shoes/trainers
  8. Glass jars
  9. Milk containers
  10. Clothing

For information about recycling and what you can/cannot recycle in Worcestershire please see our Kerbside Recycling page