For several years, I’ve been writing that if your children learn about recycling they will become the “recycling guards” of the household. I have learned this becomes even truer once they move out of the house.

My two girls, Sarah and Becca, are always telling me the latest “rules” about recycling or living more Green. They were the first to alert me that plastic straws were the single most wasteful plastic product. They have each purchased aluminum straws and carry them with them wherever they go. Now, I am the proud owner of a pouch of aluminum straws and carry them wherever I go.

Have you ever wondered where all of the plastic goes when you’re putting it into the recycle bin? Turns out that the United States was selling it to China – nearly 700,000 tons a year. China has a cheaper labor market to separate the recycling; most recycled items come with regular trash including baby diapers, food waste, plastic wrap and the list goes on. According to National Public Radio much of the plastic was brought into China illegally, without permits.

One of the U.S. plastic sellers had his suspicions about what China was doing with all of this plastic. So he hid a GPS transponder in a bale of paper and plastic. When it arrived in China, he contacted some local residents to document what happened to it. “And what we found confirmed some of our worst nightmares: dumping in the local canyon of materials they couldn’t recycle, plastic in the farmland incorporated into the soil of the cornfields nearby,” he said.

The problem with this is that the plastic and paper are blowing into the local waterways and polluting the water as well.

Plastics in the oceans are severely harmful to aquatic life. Sea turtles and whales think that floating plastics are jellyfish and other marine animals and swallow it, they get tangled in it until they drown, can’t eat or cannot defend themselves. We are losing large populations of wildlife all due to plastic.

China was importing 7 million tons of plastic from around the world annually and now accepts less than 1 percent of that amount.

The U.S. and other countries now have to figure out what to do with all of their plastic – and so do you. There are choices you can make to help:

• Bring your own bags to the store. Do not use plastic bags.

• Do not buy items wrapped in plastic (even deodorant). Ask the grocer to stop wrapping fruits and vegetables in plastic.

• Buy reusable straws, sandwich bags, glass food storage containers, etc.

• Stop buying bottled water. Buy a thermos.

Reach Lynn Youngblood at